Pizza Express founder Peter Boizot, who celebrates his 81st birthday this week, has been awarded a lifetime achievement award at the Peach Factory Hero & Icon Awards for his outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry.
Boizot opened the first Pizza Express on Wardour Street, Soho, in 1965, and is credited by many for revolutionising the casual-dining experience. Today, the brand has 376 restaurants nationwide.
He decided to start Pizza Express after returning from a trip to Italy and realising that he couldn't find a slice of pizza in the UK.
Alongside Italian designer Enzo Apicella he stripped away stuffy dining and white tablecloths to make way for signature spotlights over a single flower in a vase, marble table tops and modern art by Peter Blake.
Boizot has also been credited with raising £2m for the "Venice in Peril Fund" through the Pizza Veneziana he introduced in 1975, with a donation from each pizza sold going to the charity. And he is also thought to have been the first to introduce Peroni to the UK.
Robin Rowland, chief executive of Yo! Sushi, commented: "You need a pretty bold entrepreneurial character to drive a business the way Peter did from day one, a man who has a great passion for food and a sense of occasion in terms of creating a beautiful place to eat. Pizza Express is a place of celebrations but also works on a day-to-day basis, Peter understood that intuitively."
The Peach Factory Hero & Icon Awards, now in their fifth year, recognises outstanding companies, brands and individuals from the restaurant industry. Peach Factory founder Peter Martin commented; "Peter Boizot defined the casual-dining sector, with his reputation and influence reaching far beyond London and the UK. Peter has inspired, innovated and raised the bar for those that follow in his footsteps."
With over 140 senior executives in attendance, this year's Peach Industry Icon Awards took place at BAFTA, London, on 18 November.
See a video on Peter Boizot here.
By Neil Gerrard
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