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Rita scores trifecta at hospitality awards

Boutique Aro Valley restaurant Rita received three awards at the recent 2018 Felix Wellington Hospitality Awards, as the industry celebrated outstanding hospitality professionals and establishments making a positive impact on Wellington’s café and dining scene.

Rita co-owners Kelda Hains (third from left), Paul Schrader (right) and Matt Hawkes (second from right), with the Rita team.

Rita, which opened last year and seats just 28 people, with two staggered seatings a night for its constantly changing three-course set men, was awarded Outstanding New Establishment and Suburban/Regional Experience of the Year. It also received the public vote for Establishment of the Year.

Mt Victoria seafood restaurant Ortega Fish Shack took out Outstanding Restaurant of the Year, and Outstanding Front of House Team, with street food vendor Lucky awarded Casual Dining/Street Food Experience of the Year, and Prefab winning outstanding café, for the second year running.

The awards for outstanding wine and beer experiences went to Noble Rot and Little Beer Quarter respectively.

Individual dedication to the industry and craft was also recognised at the Felix Awards, which were named for the late Dean Felix Dunlop of Brasserie Flipp.

The coveted Hospitality Hero of the Year was awarded to Stephen Morris of Avida Bar for his wealth of international wine experience, dry wit and contribution to the success of Wellington hospitality. His hospitality career has included roles at the legendary Boulcott Street Bistro, Shed 5, and his own Copita restaurant.

Tom Hutchison of Capitol Restaurant was awarded outstanding chef and Outstanding Barista of the Year went to Morgan West of Milk Crate. Outstanding Maitre D of the Year was awarded to Chelsea Godinet of Shepherd, which won four awards last year.

“Wellington has always been a hotbed of talent when it comes to dining out,” says Marisa Bidois, CEO of the Restaurant Association of New Zealand, supporter of the awards.

“It’s been great to see new places offering something unique cropping up over the last year but it’s also reassuring to see some of the more established establishments still going strong.

“As an industry it’s so important that we take time out to celebrate our success and acknowledge our achievements. We believe it’s important to shine a light on our industry and make sure we are recognised for the contribution we make to our community and economy,” she said.

The 2018 Felix Wellington Hospitality Awards recipients are:

L’Affare Outstanding Barista of the Year
Morgan West, Milk Crate

Jameson Outstanding Bartender of the Year
Benji Irvine, Hanging Ditch

Burns & Ferrall Emerging Front of House
Georgia Mackenzie, Poquito Bar

Helping Hands Outstanding Front of House Team of the Year
Ortega Fish Shack & Bar

Moet Hennessy Outstanding Maitre d of the Year
Chelsea Godinet, Shepherd

Le Cordon Bleu Emerging Chef
Tom Millot, Frenchie

Gilmours Outstanding Chef of the Year
Tom Hutchison, Capitol Restaurant

Southern Hospitality Outstanding Café of the Year
Prefab Eatery

Garage Project Outstanding Beer Experience of the Year
Little Beer Quarter

Negociants Outstanding Wine Experience of the Year
Noble Rot Wine Bar

Federal Merchants & Co Outstanding Cocktail Experience of the Year
Hawthorn Lounge

Service Foods Outstanding Casual Dining/Street Food Experience of the Year

OneMusic Outstanding Ambience & Design of the Year
Lulu Bar

BCE Catering Equipment Outstanding New Establishment of the Year

Nova Energy Outstanding Suburban/Regional Experience of the Year

Red + White Cellar Outstanding Restaurant of the Year
Ortega Fish Shack & Bar

The Recruitment Network Outstanding Caterer of the Year
The Catering Studio

Harbourside Function Venue Outstanding Sales Rep of the Year
Stephanie Reade, Mineral Wines

Crombie Lockwood Insurance Brokers Outstanding Supplier of the Year
Moore Wilson’s

iMonitor Outstanding Hospitality Professional of the Year
Stephen Morris, Avida Bar

First Table People’s Choice Establishment of the Year