Industry News | April 30, 2013

NRAEF Hands Out Restaurant Neighbor Awards

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) honored its 2013 Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity American Dream award winners at an April 17 gala during the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Foundation’s Restaurant Neighbor Award, founded in partnership with American Express, celebrates the outstanding charitable service performed by restaurant operators.

The Faces of Diversity American Dream award, sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice, is given to diverse members of the restaurant industry who have, through hard work and perseverance, achieved the American Dream.

“The recipients of the 2013 Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity American Dream awards exemplify a level of spirit for service and giving that is so uniquely prevalent in the restaurant industry,” says Rob Gifford, executive vice president of philanthropic initiatives for the NRAEF.

“These awards shine the spotlight on the important role the industry plays helping others achieve success and fulfill their dreams,” he adds. “Their stories are inspiring and highlight the very best of what the industry has to offer. We applaud their commitment and are proud to recognize their achievements.”

Recipients of the 2013 Restaurant Neighbor Award receive a $5,000 contribution to continue supporting their charitable initiatives. The winners were:

  • Arby’s Restaurant Group (Atlanta): Recognized for its mission to end hunger in partnership with Share Our Strength. Through a variety of national, grassroots, and social media efforts, Arby’s raised more than $5 million in the past two years, in addition to connecting thousands with feeding programs in their communities.
  • El Gaucho Hospitality (Seattle): Donated more than $3 million over the last 10 years to local charities. The company has a long-standing relationship with Union Gospel Mission and has served 10,000 lunches to the less fortunate through a semi-monthly feeding program at the Mission.
  • Irish Pub (Philadelphia): Its annual “The Irish Pub Tour de Shore” 65-mile bike ride has raised $2.8 million for local charities since it began in 1987 and has grown to include more than 1,600 riders.
  • Steve Paternoster, Owner, Scalo Northern Italian Grill (Albuquerque, New Mexico): Honored for his significant support of and contributions to nonprofits and his local community. Paternoster has founded several charitable organizations, including Youth Matters, in memory of his daughter, to help teens in the children’s court system, and Haley’s Haven, a home to provide counseling, self-esteem classes, and employment training for girls, which includes a culinary component.

"American Express is proud to partner with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to honor the incredible impact restaurant professionals have made on the industry and their communities," says Suzan Kereere, senior vice president of the National Client Group at American Express. "For 15 years, we have honored our recipients with the Restaurant Neighbor Award to acknowledge that their efforts have not gone unnoticed and hope their actions inspire the industry to continue giving back."

The 2013 Faces of Diversity American Dream awards went to three restaurant entrepreneurs. The winners were:

  • Monique Valenzuela Trudnowski, Owner/Operator, Adriatic Grill Italian Cuisine & Wine Bar (Tacoma, Washington): By age 18, she had been abandoned by her father, worked to support her family, experienced being homeless, and had her first child. Those setbacks didn’t stop her from opening her own restaurant in 2007 and, in 2009, establishing the Adriatic Grill Culinary Scholarship to help others pursue their dreams in the restaurant industry.
  • Sissy Ivy, ProStart Educator, Sevier County Career and Tech Center (Sevierville, Tennessee): She was the only sibling of seven children to graduate high school and remain out of prison. Ivy worked more than 15 years in the food industry to put herself through college to become a ProStart educator, operating a café and catering business with high school restaurant management and culinary arts students. All proceeds benefit the program and local charities.
  • Miguel Valdez, Executive Chef, The Red Door Restaurant/The Wellington Steak and Martini Lounge (San Diego): As a child, he and his family struggled against poverty, crime, drugs, and an abusive father. He overcame a learning disability to work his way up from delivering pizzas to working as a line cook and eventually serving as executive chef. Valdez spends hundreds of hours cooking for charities and volunteering to teach low-income mothers to prepare healthy, cost-effective meals.

“PepsiCo Foodservice is excited to be a part of the Faces of Diversity American Dream Award to help recognize these diverse individuals who have worked tirelessly to achieve their dreams of business ownership and success,” says Doug Allison, vice president, industry relations, PepsiCo Foodservice. “They are not only true entrepreneurs, but also serve as role models for those that soon will become the future of the restaurant industry.”

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