2023 Hospitality Industry Awards Winners

Manager of the Year

Jarrod Taylor

Jinja Bar & Bistro

Chef of the Year

Cristian Pontiggia


Restaurateur of the Year

Mark Herman

Dion’s & Tula’s

Community Service

M’Tucci’s Restaurants

Face of Diversity

Mike White

High Point Grill

The highest honor a restaurateur can achieve in New Mexico is Restaurateur of the Year. New Mexico is home to such a great variety of restaurants that it is difficult to choose a winner each year.  Mark Herman of Dion’s and Tula’s were recognized as the 2023 Restaurateur of the Year.

The Chef of the Year award is given to recognize chefs who provide excellent cuisine as well as excellent service. Cristian Pontiggia of Sassella was honored as Chef of the Year for 2023.

The Manager of the Year recognizes outstanding managers who are the team leaders in a restaurant establishment. This year’s recipient is Jarrod Taylor of Jinja Bar & Bistro.

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 Community Service Award Award honors a restaurant that is a driving force for community service in their area and has had a significant impact on the community. This year’s recipient is M’Tucci’s Restaurants.

The “Face of Diversity” Award is a new award the New Mexico Restaurant Association presented for the first time at this year’s event. This award was designed to recognize an individual from a diverse background who has realized the American Dream through hard work and determination. The Face of Diversity for 2023 went to Mike White
of High Point Grill.

2023 Prostart Winners

culinary winner

Taos High School

Santiago Tafoya, Isaiah Gonzales, Alimar Espinoza-Sack, Meili Brown 

Team Manager: Talia Tank

Instructor: Adam Medina

Teacher of the Year

Kevin Zink – Carlsbad High School

Management winner

Cloudcroft High School

 Winney Pollard, Taylor Curtis, and Colby Giles

Instructor: Joni Watson


The New Mexico ProStart Program is a high school curriculum that teaches culinary, management and hospitality education in 36 high schools in New Mexico. Students completing the program have trained for over 400 hours and are well-equipped to enter the workforce in the hospitality industry. Cloudcroft High was recognized as the winner for the management competition. For the culinary competition, Taos High School was recognized as the winner. The 2023 winner of the Hospitality Cup, the school with the best score combined in the culinary and management competitions, is Taos High School.

The 2023 ProStart Teacher of the year is Kevin Zink of Carlsbad High School.

Recipients of Hospitality Industry Education Foundation (HIEF) scholarships were also recognized at the dinner. HIEF awarded $3,500 in scholarships to one students pursuing a career in hospitality this year.

Photos of the event, photos of the winners, and more details on the winners are available upon request to NMRA at 505-343-9848

2023-24 NMRA Board of Directors 

Our new president, chairman and executive committee of the NMRA Board of Directors were installed at our Annual Meeting on Tuesday, September 19. NMRA’s board consists of restaurant owners, operators, and vendors who share a love of the industry and a commitment to its future. We are lucky to have their commitment and thank them for their support.

The 2024-2025 Executive Committee is:

·Chairperson: Laura Leal – Leal’s Mexican Food (Clovis)
·President: George Gundrey – Tomasita’s (Albuquerque  &  Santa Fe)
·Treasurer: Michael Calhoun – Red River Brewing Company (Red River)
·Secretary: Chris Zalesiak – Burger 21 & Melting Pot (Albuquerque)
·Associate Vice President – Kristina Elias, US Foods (Statewide)

The 2024-2025 Board of Directors is:
Jorge Brasil – Laguna Development Corp
Marie Coleman – Church Street Café
Randy Kenna – Rudy’s Country Store & Bar B Q
Rick Pedram – Crowne Plaza Hotel
Yashoda Naidoo – Annapurna’s

Janie Balzano – Trinity Hotel & Restaurant

Florence Jaramillo – Rancho de Chimayo
Javier Sanchez – La Cocina

Tom Martin – Taco Box


Javier Sanchez – La Cocina

Las Cruces:
Ed Linderman – Butter Smith Kitchen/Corner Bakery

Shelly Quartieri – Colfax Tavern & Diner

Jerry Harrell – Double Eagle de Mesilla 
Russell Hernandez – Salud! de Mesilla

San Antonio:
Janice Argabright – Owl Bar & Café

Santa Fe:
Al Lucero – Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
Fernando Olea – Sazon Restaurant

Gene Baca, Gene – Bueno Foods
Todd Hickam – Ben E Keith Foods
Jay Larsen – Shamrock Foods
Jeremy Padilla – Sysco

Jean Hertzman – NMSU Hotel & Rest Mgt Program
Lansing Adams – New Mexico Tourism Department
Tana Lucero-Ranke – FISIF

Contact Us

If you have questions about the webinar or information provided on this page, we are here to serve you, our members. Call 1-505-343-9848 or fill out your contact information and we will get back to you soon.

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