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The problem we were always going to have when we launched the Special Award for Contribution to Excellence last year was finding someone who would be able to take on the title from U Ye Htut Win (AKA Sharky) the 2018 winner. However when the nominations started coming in, one name was so surrounded with glowing endorsements it seemed to leap off the page. We kicked ourselves, we needn’t have worried, the Special Award for contribution to Excellence was going to be in safe hands.

Although Nikki Barltrop is the Chief Operating Officer of 57 Below and is dedicated to the delivery of excellence in their venues, Gekko, Union bar and the Parami Pizzas. She does seem to spend a lot of time supporting promoting and celebrating the events and achievements of her competitors. Nikki is an ambassador for the industry as a whole, and she is as likely to be found writing honest and constructive foodie reviews about a new restaurant opening as she is to be found waxing lyrical about the latest success of her team.

From being a committee member and organiser of the hugely successful European Food Festival to being one of the driving forces with Jen Queen behind “Straws Suck”, Nikki’s influence spreads far wider than her role in 57 Below, and her passion for excellence and her desire to promote quality in the industry is both infectious and admirable.

Her dedication to the promotion of sustainability and environmental awareness is not limited to the hugely influential “Straw Suck” campaign. Her involvement in numerous initiatives such as farm-to-table, and her role as one of the founding members of “Thant Myanmar”, a grassroots movement aiming to reduce plastic pollution in Myanmar, show a commitment to ensure that she contributes towards making a positive difference in the country.

Nikki uses the platform that her position has elevated her to, to do good outside of the industry as well, and she supports many worthwhile causes and local charities. From women’s groups, and the “Girls Stand up Programme” to the Doh Eain urban regeneration charity, Nikki seems to be involved in a lot, all the time. But she is also dedicated to the development and growth of her teams, and she encourages her staff to extend themselves, for example by applying their skills to take part in overseas bartending competitions. She also regularly brings visiting chefs and guest bartenders into Myanmar from outside of the country, all of whom contribute towards the growth of her team and the development of quality across the whole industry.

Her dedication to the promotion and development of excellence within her organisation and beyond the boundaries of 57 Below into the industry are key to Nikki being selected for this prestigious award. From her first foray into the world of hospitality and catering as a waitress at Billy’s Bar and Restaurant in Harpenden, UK. Nikki has climbed the ladder, travelled the continents and made her way steadily to her position at 57 Below. She is a qualified expert in Sake, she knows a thing or two about the ice luge, and she’s also now the holder of the Special Contribution to Excellence award 2019. Congratulations Nikki and cheers!

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