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Restaurant Association Celebrates Excellence in the Industry at Annual Awards Dinner

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The New Mexico Restaurant Association is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s annual Hospitality Industry Awards. The winners were revealed at last night’s Hospitality Industry Awards dinner, which was held at the Embassy Suites in Downtown Albuquerque. Over 500 were in attendance at the event, which is dedicated to recognizing excellence in the hospitality industry.

The program began with awards for New Mexico’s ProStart Program which is administered by the Hospitality Industry Education Foundation. The ProStart Program is a high school curriculum that teaches culinary, management and hospitality education in 39 high schools in New Mexico. Students completing the program have trained over 400 hours and are well-equipped to enter the workforce in the hospitality industry. The National ProStart Teacher of the Year for 2008 is Dawn Rupp from Cloudcroft High School. Gadsden High School was recognized as the 2008 Culinary Team and their students will compete in the National ProStart Student Invitational at the end of this week. Silver High School was recognized as the 2008 Management Team. They will also compete in the Invitational. The 2008 Hospitality Cup also went to Silver High School.

The International Food Service Executives Association gave their Executive of the Year award to John Szurek. Szurek is President of US Foodservice in Albuquerque and is responsible for US Foodservice operations in New Mexico.

Employees are the lifeblood of every restaurant. The association recognized five recipients of Employee of the Year. They are as follows:

· Patrick Crilley, Outback Steakhouse (Albuquerque)
· Gloria Duran, Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q (Albuquerque)
· Kim Gallegos, Tomato Cafe (Albuquerque)
· Sandra Montano, Laguna Development Corporation/Route 66 Casino (Laguna Pueblo)
· Don Putz, The Ranchers Club of New Mexico (Albuquerque)

The Manager of the Year recognizes a manager who serves as the team leader in a restaurant in addition to, or in absence of, an onsite owner.  This year’s recipient of Manager of the Year is Beau Anderson from Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q (Albuquerque). Anderson was recognized for his leadership abilities and his community service work with “Extreme Makeover – Home Edition”.

The Chef of the Year award is given to an outstanding chef in a New Mexico foodservice establishment. Carmine Russo of Central New Mexico Community College (Albuquerque) was honored as Chef of the Year for 2008.  He was instrumental in gaining American Culinary Federation accreditation for CNM and was noted for mentoring and guiding the next generation of chefs in New Mexico.

Restaurants are strong supporters of the communities in which they reside. Nine out of ten restaurants contribute to a community service project or fundraiser on a regular basis. The Restaurant Neighbor Award honors a restaurant that is a good neighbor in their area and has had a significant impact on the community through a service project or fundraising event. This year’s recipient is Tomato Café (Albuquerque). They have been dedicated to serving the homeless in Albuquerque by providing twice daily donations of ready-to-serve food to the Desert Harvest Food Rescue Program, allowing them to concentrate on other services for the city’s homeless population. They have donated over 57,000 pounds of food to the program since becoming a participant.

The highest honor a restaurateur can achieve in New Mexico is Restaurateur of the Year. There were many outstanding nominees in this category this year. Denise Lane and Lori Novak, owners of The Hill Diner (Los Alamos) are the 2008 recipients of Restaurateur of the Year. The women were honored for their work in the community, their dedication to their staff, and their longtime service in the industry.

AAA of New Mexico also awarded their four-diamond restaurants at the event. This year’s four-diamond winners are: Ranchers Club of New Mexico (Albuquerque), Fuego (Santa Fe), Geronimo (Santa Fe), Rancho de San Juan Restaurant (Espanola), The Old House (Santa Fe), Joseph’s Table (Taos) and De La Tierra Restaurant (Taos).

The New Mexico Restaurant Association’s mission is to empower the food and beverage industry by promoting and protecting common values and interests. It has more than 1,000 members in 111 cities all over New Mexico, who join together for meetings, seminars and the hospitality industry awards to honor the industry’s top achievers. It has actively represented and promoted the food service industry in New Mexico since 1946.