2021 has been a year of learning and rebuilding. Our industry has faced unprecedented perils and a celebrations is in order. Every year we award the Manager of the Year, Chef of the Year, Restaurant Neighbor, and Restaurateur of the Year. We are not letting all of the challenges stop us from showcasing the talent and tenacity of our wonderful industry. Instead of our annual Hospitality Industry Awards In-Person Gala, we will be presenting the awards and celebrating our industry leaders through social media, emails, podcasts and videos.


The Restaurateur of the Year Award is the highest honor a person can receive in the New Mexico restaurant industry, and NMRA has been honored to present this award every year since 1967. 

NMRA is proud to honor our 2021 Restaurateur of the year, Jason & Deidra Vinson of Yo Mama’s Grill.   Check them out on the NMRA Podcast New Mexico Restaurants NOW!
Learn More about Yo Mama’s Grill.

Restaurant operators and owners have displayed their superpowers of conviction and flexibility through a difficult year.  2021 was a year of rebuilding, and these leaders had a lot on their plate. Their care for their employees, customers, and community really shined through.  Congratulations to the 2021 nominees who exemplify excellence in customer service, employee relations, innovation, and who have a true passion for the restaurant industry.  We are lucky they are on our team.

2021 Restaurateur Nominees

Dan Garcia – Garcia’s Kitchens
Dominic Valenzuela. – Tako Ten
James Garrigan– Lily & Liam Bistro/Upscale Burgers & Shakes
James Jackson – Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue
Jason & Diedra Vinson – Yo Mama’s Grill
Joaquin Garofalo – JC’s New York Pizza Department
John Haas – M’tucci’s
Juan Morales – Santa Fe Grill
Kimberly Baird – Vernon’s Speakeasy
Marcus Cassimus – Hello Deli
Marie Coleman – Church Street Cafe
Mark Kiffin – The Compound Restaurant
Mark Herman – Dion’s
Michael Conforto – The Library Bar & Grill
Michael White – High Point Grill/Rustico/505 Food Fights
Morgan Newsom – The 505 Burger
Nick Fish – Pizza 9
Paul & Rita Benavidez – Casa de Benavidez
Randy Hodge – Rubia’s
Robert Johnston – Peppers Grill & Bar
Russell Hernandez – Salud de Mesilla
Scott & Lisa Stevens – Anaheim Jacks
Yvonne Braziel & Yvette Peacock – Del’s Restaurant


The food is the heart of every restaurant.  It all starts there, and Chefs are the superheroes who make it happen.

NMRA is proud to honor our 2021 Chef of the year, Mark Kiffin of The Compound.   Check him out on the NMRA Podcast New Mexico Restaurants NOW!
Learn More about Mark Kiffin & The Compound.


New Mexico is very fortunate to have some outstanding chefs in our state.  Their creations are artistic and delicious. Feelings of comfort, camaraderie, and community all follow a plate of delicious, imaginative food. These New Mexico chefs were nominated by their peers for their superpowers of creativity, leadership, and love of food. Congratulations to all of 2021’s nominees for Chef of the Year.

2021 Chef Nominees 

Bryan R. – Artichoke Cafe 
Christian M – Heritage Hotels & Resorts 
Dale K. – Santa Café 
Danny S. – Ohkay Casino 
Eder A. – Barrio Fries 
Jason B. – Steel Bender Brewyard 
John H. – M’tucci’s Group 
Jose “Kiko” R. – Izanami at Ten Thousand Waves 
Lane W. – La Fonda Hotel Santa Fe 
Luke R. – Double Eagle 
Marc Q. – Hotel Andaluz 
Mark K. – The Compound Restaurant 
Martin R. – Restaurant Martin 
Matthew S. – The Range 
Mike P. – Route 66 Casino Hotel 
Michael W. – High Point Grill 
Myles L. – Santa Ana Golf Club/Prairie Star 
Raul M. – Ohana Hut 
Rony G. – Dinner for Two 
Ryan L. – High Noon Saloon 
Tamera M. – Special Touch Catering 
Thomas J. – Jackson Ranch Steakhouse 
Tristin R. – Hollow Spirits Distillery 
Tyson P. – Mykonos Meraki


2021 has called for support, kindness, and strength from our neighbors… including restaurants.  Despite the challenges 2021 has brought to businesses and employees, these restaurant neighbors reached out to their communities to pay it forward. This award recognizes restaurants that are active supporters of their communities and make a positive contribution to the places where they live and work.  

NMRA is proud to honor our 2021 Restaurant Neighbor of the year, Michael White of High Point Rustic Kitchen.   Check him out on the NMRA Podcast New Mexico Restaurants NOW!
Learn More about Mike White & High Point.

Like many hard working folks who are so giving of their time and generous with their resources, they are not always recognized.  There’s no more needed time than now to focus on the Restaurant Neighbors who use their superpowers to pay it forward. Congrats to 2021’s Restaurant Neighbor Superheroes. 

2021 Restaurant Neighbor Nominees 

Andres Paglayan – Cafecito
John Haas – M’tucci’s
Jorge Atuna – Old Pecos Trail Café
Keith Ross – Silvermoon Café
Melva Aguirre – Pepper Pot Restaurant
Mike White – High Point Grill, Rustico Italian, 505 Food Fights
Pete Rallis – Copper Canyon Café
Rob Morrissey – Kith + Kin Roasting Co.
Ronnie Padilla – El Pinto Restaurant
Stephen Rosas – Sofia’s Kitchen
Wayne Moore – DH Lescombes Winery & Bistro 


Managers are the glue that holds the whole restaurant together.  Managers are vital—and 2021 has been a challenge. In addition to keeping daily tasks in check and watching out for the restaurant’s bottom line, managers are the team leaders. They have had to navigate through many changes in rules and regulations, menu, and safety precautions as we all try to find our new normal.   

NMRA is proud to honor our 2021 Manager of the year, Tai Ayers of Ohori’s Coffee Roasters.   Check her out on the NMRA Podcast New Mexico Restaurants NOW!
Learn More about Tai & Ohori’s here.

So, cheers to you, managers! Thank you for all you do. Congratulations to all of this year’s nominees.

NMRA asked for nominations from our members and the hospitality community, and all of the submitted nominees for Manager of the Year are listed below. 

NMRA’s Awards Nomination Committee, comprised of former Restaurateur of the Year Winners, has the opportunity to review all of the nominations, and makes the difficult decision on who will be the winners for the year. Stay tuned later in the week to see which of these very talented and dedicated managers is our Manager of the Year for 2021.

2021 Manager Nominees

Bonnie W. – Ohkay Casino
Casey H. – Weck’s
James H. – Red River Brewing Company & Distillery
Kevin C. – DH Lescombes Winery & Bistro
Maggie S. – Chello Grill
Marty K. – Effingbar Grill
Ronnie P. – El Pinto Restaurant
Rudy P. – Paradise Hills Golf/The Office
Ryan W. – Laguna Burger
Sonya S. – Canteen Central of NM
Starr B. – Joseph’s Culinary Pub
Steve G. – Hot Tamales
Tai A. – Ohori’s Coffee Roasters
Tami M. – A Bite of Belgium
Tracy O. – Applebees