Hall of Fame Inductees

Hospitality New Zealand's Hall of Fame

We are pleased to introduce the following inductees to the Hospitality NZ Hall of Fame. The following individuals have made significant contributions to our industry, who are admired and deemed 'legends' by their peers.

Hospitality NZ is proud to introduce the following hospitality legends who exemplify excellence and dedication to the Hospitality industry.

John Hellebrekers

Hospitality has always been in John's blood – his parents were hotel owners and he started at the bottom of the food chain as a trainee. He slowly worked his way up until he opened his first bar in Auckland, Degree Gastrobar, which is still a success 14 years on.

After a late night casino meeting in Las Vegas, the seed had been planted for the model that was to become Barworks Hospitality Group. Five years ago, John and his business partners officially joined forces with DB Breweries and formed Barworks, a group that now operates 22 successful bars and restaurants in Auckland, as well as the function venue Five Knots.

It is John's willingness to take a chance on people and recognise their character that holds him in high regard within the group. John's passion, commitment and drive ensured steady growth within the Barworks Group, which has a unique and highly successful business model.

For John, it is all about the people, "taking someone from employee to business owner is the best part of the job; changing people's lives."

John McHugh

John McHugh served as a national board member for 11 years with a keen interest in all aspects of the hospitality industry. For 20+ years John has been a member of the Southland Branch executive committee and has also served as the branch president.

John's active role in the community continues to keep him involved and engaged with the community the past 25+ years and his involvement in local government includes being Chairman of the Winton Community Board for the last 15 years.

John and his wife Nancy own and operate the Central Southland Lodge in Winton. The Central Southland Lodge has accommodation, gaming machines, full TAB, a Super Liquor Bottle Store and all other services expected in a Country Hotel. John and Nancy have been actively involved in local clubs, none more so than the rugby club of which they were major sponsors.

Judith Tabron

At the heart of Soul there's one woman. Judith Tabron is the owner, the innovator and the boss of what's generally regarded as the most successful and constantly busy restaurant in the city. She's tough, she's smart and she's very sassy.

Judith began her career in 1977, as an apprentice chef at the Logan Park hotel in suburban Auckland. Back then it was unusual for a woman to consider restaurant work as a career, but Judith was up for the tough hours, the constant pressure and the often sexist behaviour in kitchens. She came through with flying colours and never looked back.

In the early 1980s she headed for London, where she worked with some of the best in the game. At L'Escargot, run by Nicholas Lander (now the restaurant writer for London's Financial Times), Judith learned about food and fine ingredients - lessons out of reach for young New Zealanders in an era when our food culture was barely beginning. She returned to New Zealand with a passion for fish cookery, a theme that has run through all her subsequent jobs and in her restaurants.

She's held head chef positions at several high-profile Auckland restaurants, including DeBrett Hotel and Sails, and has consulted at Mikano and at Sky City's restaurants. The first restaurant of her own opened almost 20 years ago, when she started Ramses with the late John Lewis.

Ramses broke new ground for Auckland. It was the sort of place where lunch would last well into the afternoon - and often the evening - and where everyone who was anyone wanted to be. The advertising world, television executives and stars, the wealthy and the wannabes all rolled up regularly to feast on fish and other modern food, and drink the best New Zealand wines.

Judith manned the kitchen, John Lewis fronted the dining room and behind the scenes Gerald Hickey, Judith's father, controlled the finances. This was fortuitous as when John needed to step aside, a victim of the financial industry's fortunes, Gerald managed to extricate Judith and help her settle for outright ownership, probably a first for a woman in the Auckland hospitality scene. Throughout the rest of his life Gerald provided counsel and fiscal guidance to his daughter, advising on the sale of Ramses and subsequent purchase of Soul a couple of years later.

Soul was opened to much acclaim in 2000, and brought new vigour to the Viaduct Harbour. Judith's customers from Ramses were thrilled to have her on the scene again, and overnight the restaurant became a mecca for her old crowd, along with city businessmen who could walk there, and ladies who liked to lunch in the fashionable environment that Soul's terrace offered. It has never looked back.

Kevin Schwass QSM JP

When applying to join Lion Breweries as a trainee manager, the only formal qualification Kevin could offer was as an Artificial Breeding Insemination Technician!

Obtained whilst growing up on a Manawatu dairy farm, Kevin left the farm in 1971 to join the NZ Police wherein he spent most of his career as a detective in the CIB.

In 1980, a career-change saw him become part of an industry he really enjoyed – hospitality.

Kevin went on to lease and manage either in his own right or in partnership a number of iconic licensed entities in Drury, Napier, and the Auckland CBD and for ten years the Poenamo Hotel, the spiritual home in those days of the All Blacks; along with virtually every other international rugby or sporting team to visit Auckland.

In 1996, Kevin opened the R’toto Pub & Café along with the Rangitoto Brewing Co, one of the first NZ bars at the time to specialise in craft-beers; establishing Takapuna as a burgeoning hospitality precinct.

In 2002, he opened the Blankenberge Belgian Beer Café, officially opened by their Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Belgium. In subsequent years Kevin created Florrie McGreal’s Irish Pub and in partnership converted R’toto into a Macs Brew Bar.

Frustrated with local body politicians, in 2004 Kevin was elected onto the North Shore City Council where he served two terms as a Councillor followed by one-term as Deputy Chairman of the Takapuna-Devonport Local Board, part of Auckland’s new super-city.

In 2004 Kevin was awarded HANZ’s "Personality of the Year" and in 2010 was honoured for his services to hospitality and the community, being awarded a Queens Service Medal. In 2012 he became a Justice of the Peace.

Kevin has been the Auckland Branch President and a Board Member of Hospitality NZ.

Maureen Gordon

I'd always been in hospitality and had been involved in family/private hotels for a long time. The real beginning of my career in the ‘licensed hotel industry’ began in 1964 when my husband Peter and I took our young family to Drury and started the Jolly Farmer. We were there for 5 years, then went on to the Carpenter's Arms on Greys Avenue in the city, acquired a wine shop in Paihia, then with the redevelopment of Grey's Avenue took on the license of the Kings Arms Tavern in Newton. The Royal George in Newmarket then became a part of our business expansion. Australia beckoned with the purchase of a hotel in Sydney, the Nepean in Penrith.

After the passing of my husband Peter, I relinquished our other hotels but retained the Kings Arms and it is now the only remaining hotel in our family, still going strongly, with a big presence in the music scene, locally and internationally. We were recently voted the best boutique music venue in NZ for 2015; only possible with the great support from my family. How wonderful to still be involved in hospitality! What a life!

Margaret Grant

Margaret Grant began a career in Hospitality over twenty years ago when, along with her husband Denis she took over ownership of the Westport Motor Hotel. For over two decades this successful venture was a large part of Margaret’s life until she and Denis’ recent retirement.

With a reputation for ensuring the finer details of her client's needs were always met, Margaret was known as the "go to" person for any big functions in Westport. In addition to catering for functions in the hotel, she catered at other venues including on the beachfronts, mountains or in paddocks. Each venue was always a success. Weddings were a specialty and Margaret put much effort into each person’s special day.

Margaret is well known for being a great host especially to big groups and visiting rugby teams. Margaret acted as a “mother” to all the visiting Heartland Rugby Teams. Margaret hosted two Prime Ministers, the Governor General, Leaders of the Opposition and many others. She has recently been asked to host and co-ordinate the function for all dignitaries attending during Prince Charles visit to Westport.

Margaret believes in giving back to the community and has been involved in many organisations as well as serving as a board member on Buller Rugby Union, Tourism West Coast, and more recently Sports Tasman.

Professional isolation can be a challenge in smaller regions. Margaret addressed this by ensuring that she regularly travelled to other areas to keep up to date with modern trends, attending many courses and expos. Looking back from 2015, Margaret has attended nearly every Hospitality New Zealand Conference during the last twenty years and served as the Buller Branch President of eight years. In 2012 Margaret was presented with a Life Membership of the Buller Branch.

Margaret has always been very passionate about the hospitality industry and she was a strong advocate for our organisation. In particular, Margaret has been active in ensuring the National Board and Chief Executive understood the issues impacting on rural areas.

Michael Friend

In 1972 Michael was a pioneer in the first group of hotel management trainees recruited by New Zealand Breweries, now Lion Breweries. Over the 28 years that followed, Michael worked across a wide variety of managed, leased and franchised business units within that company both in New Zealand and in the eastern states of Australia. In addition, Michael was a board member of the Lion Foundation charitable gaming trust for 10 years.

Michael spent his early years learning the business in two of Wellington’s finest hotels of the day, the Hotel St George and The Waterloo Hotel.

His first trail-blazer role was in helping to build the Cobb & Co chain that introduced New Zealanders to affordable casual family restaurant dining. Michael opened the third and the largest Cobb & Co in Hamilton in 1975 and then became an integral part of the team that grew the chain to 28 restaurants making it the 35th largest restaurant chain in the world with revenues of $40million.

In 1981 Lion sent him to Australia to establish Cobb & Co in Sydney as a joint venture with Tooheys and Castlemaine Perkins. Two years later he came back across ‘The Ditch’ into a variety of hotel regional manager positions which led to his appointment first as General Manager for the nationwide Hancock chain of 60 managed hotels and later as General Manager of Lion’s 150 leased hotels.

The hotel business came to a shuddering stop with the 1989 Sale of Liquor Act. Faced with a deregulated market Lion now wanted out of the hotel and retail liquor businesses and Michael went from nurturing them to leading the sell down process.

In final days with Lion, Michael assisted Lion seize market share in Victoria, Australia as it set about acquiring pubs to grow market share of the beer brands acquired from the defunct Bond Brewing empire.

In 2001 he was appointed CEO of the once massively popular Loaded Hog brew pubs and the One Red Dog chain.

In more recent times, Michael has led the operations team of the Portage and Waitakere Licensing Trusts in West Auckland. Earlier this year, he left the Trusts and is now consulting to the hospitality industry.

Michael served for a decade on the Hospitality Standards Institute, a standalone industry training organisation, and was its Chairman for six years. This was a decade when the organisation revolutionised industry training. It swept away hospitality training methods and concepts that were ‘so last century’ and replaced them with modern trends in the delivery of food, beverage and accommodation.

Russel Scott

Veteran Wellington hospitality figure Russel Scott started his hospitality career by serving 20 years at Lion Breweries Hotel Division in 1976. Russel held various management roles and one of his key roles at Lion Breweries was an Area Manager position where he was responsible for 18 various Hotel and Tavern operations.

Russel left Lion Breweries in 1986 and for the next 13 years became a Director of Valesco United Limited who developed and managed the following Wellington venues: Flanagan’s Hotel, Backbencher Pub and Cafe, Chicago Bard and the King’s Cross Hotel in Lower Hutt.

Russel is the owner operator of Wellington’s hospitality venues: Featherston Tavern, Leuven Belgian Beer Cafe, Avida and Ombra.

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