2018 Industry Spotlight Award Winners AnnouncedSeptember 21, 2018

The Colorado Restaurant Association is pleased to announce the winners of the Annual Industry Spotlight Awards. Numerous individuals and businesses will be honored at the premier event for the CRA, where we gather together to celebrate the restaurant industry and the top stars of hospitality. Awards are given to honor those who have been mentors, contributed to the community and have pushed our industry to the level that it is today. This year we added the Stars of the Industry awards to expand our recognition to employees that have contributed greatly to the customer experience and positive image of the restaurant industry. Award winners will be recognized at the Industry Spotlight Awards on September 17 at the Colorado Convention Center.


Award Winners:

Exceptional Newcomer Signature Dish Award

Christopher Martinez, Ad Hominem (Denver)

An individual “new on the scene” who is making extraordinary contributions in the hospitality industry and in the community, demonstrating leadership and innovation. Before moving to Denver from New Jersey to complete his culinary degree, Chris Martinez worked under some of the best chefs in the world (Chefs Daniel Humme and James Kent) at The NoMad and The NoMad Bar. After completing his degree in Culinary Arts, he worked for Chefs Jennifer Jasinski and Timothy Kuklinski as a Sous Chef at Rioja, and he continued his education by staging at several Michelin restaurants in Chicago. When presented with an opportunity to be the executive chef at a new restaurant in Denver, he approached the opening of this restaurant with a high standard of service, attention to detail, and consistency. By focusing on fresh and local ingredients, along with a hyper seasonal menu, he has quickly pushed the culinary boundaries of the local neighborhood, and all that enter the restaurant. In the short period of time that Ad Hominem has been open, Chris has made a positive impression on countless diners. (video)


Outstanding Professional Signature Dish Award

Brother Luck, Four by Brother Luck (Colorado Springs)

An individual recognized throughout the industry as a leader for implementing innovative ideas, serving as a mentor, and a demonstrated passion for the industry and community.   Chef Brother Luck started working in professional kitchens when he was 14-years-old. After culinary school, he continued to work in many fine dining kitchens around the world. His first restaurant Brother Luck Street Eats was inspired by street food from around the world. Last year, he opened Four by Brother Luck in downtown Colorado Springs focusing on the four providers behind his cooking – hunters, fishers, farmers and gatherers. In the past 5 years he has been on fire with numerous television appearances on the Food Network, and of course Season 15 of Top Chef filmed in Colorado last year. His consistent standards of excellence serve as an inspiration and contribute to the advancement and prestige of the foodservice industry. (video)


Regional Outstanding Professional Signature Dish Award

Brian Seifried, Wing Shack (Greeley, Loveland, Garden City, Ft. Collins)

An individual who is making extraordinary contributions in the hospitality industry and in their community, demonstrating leadership and innovation. This award is intended for individuals not in the Denver Metro area. Brian Seifried exemplifies what an outstanding professional should look like. He has developed a strong business with his Wing Shacks hiring and supporting hundreds of regional people and has recently added to that with his new venture - Luna\'s Tacos $ Tequila’s! He gives back to the local communities by supporting various important charitable events not only with financial support but also with volunteer support. Brian believes strongly in his civic duty and has served in political positions and numerous boards and committees. Most importantly Brian is always there for people, whether it be his family, partners, customers, or friends, he is always genuinely devoted to all. (video)


Outstanding Media Professional Signature Dish Award

Mark Antonation, Westword (Denver)

The Outstanding Media Professional Signature Dish Award honors a person in the media who has supported the hospitality industry through their reporting. This year’s recipient is Mark Antonation from Westword. We appreciate his thoroughness and dedication to reporting all sides of the story and to shining a spotlight on our industry. His writing is entertaining and educational, and covers a diverse array of the metro area’s restaurant industry. (video)


Philanthropist Signature Dish Awards

Lauren O\'Brien, The Palm (Denver)

An award presented to an individual whose outstanding civic and charitable giving sets a philanthropic example for others. Lauren has been a big part of the CRA Mile High Chapter for many years. In an effort to give back even more, 5 years ago she volunteered to oversee the chapter’s largest fundraiser, the “Tailgate Party.” In addition to running the event, she has also grown this event to help raise money for the Mile High Chapter Hardship Fund and Colorado Restaurant Foundation Angel Relief Fund. These funds offer support to the people at the heart of our restaurant and hospitality families by providing emergency assistance grants for employees facing an unanticipated hardship. In addition to her strong fundraising efforts, Lauren also serves on the Colorado Restaurant Foundation board and is a dedicated advocate for the restaurant and hospitality industry. (video)


Philanthropist Signature Dish Awards

McNicholas Family (Denver)

An award presented to an individual whose outstanding civic and charitable giving sets a philanthropic example for others. The McNicholas family has been known for their philanthropic giving long before the official start of KM Concessions in 1971. Taking care of their community has been a way of life for Mary, Kevin, Shannon, Sean and Brendan. They have never hesitated to help someone in need, be a mentor or just listen. You can see the ripple effect of these values throughout their organization.

As the company has transitioned from Kevin’s leadership to Sean’s it has been amazing to see how seamless and natural things have evolved. Shannon has also played a big role in developing company culture. The McNicholas family is continuing the legacy of community involvement and philanthropy with new leadership and vision for the future. (video)


Outstanding Allied Partner

Rich Schneider, Raquelitas Tortillas (Denver)

“Little Rich” as he is affectionately known in the industry, Richard Schneider is the tortilla savant! Running Raquelitas Tortillas with his brother, the family has been making delicious tortillas in Denver since 1960! Rich is the industry’s number one cheerleader. He serves on numerous boards around the state promoting and celebrating the industry. His boundless enthusiasm is contagious as he helps chefs, restaurateurs, purveyors, suppliers, students and all others bring their best to the Colorado dining scene. He is an industry supplier who has contributed greatly to the advancement and prestige of the foodservice industry and he has demonstrated support of the CRA and industry concerns. (video)


Stars of the Industry - Chef of the Year

Linda Hampsten Fox, The Bindery (Denver)

Veteran caterer-chef Linda Hampsten Fox has created something Denver hasn\'t quite seen yet, an all-day, ultra-sustainable, neighborhood eatery serving incredible food--a concept she describes as \"San Francisco meets Milan.\" The Bindery, a 100+ capacity eatery, is Chef Hampsten Fox\'s first restaurant. It has always been her vision to create a community staple for Denver, a journey that has evolved over her lifetime. As the daughter of Polish and Czech immigrants, the food she creates is a culmination of her roots and travels through Europe and Mexico. Now, as both owner and head chef of The Bindery, she puts her life\'s work and experiences into every meal she creates. (video)


A leader in community engagement, Chef Hampsten Fox has provided support to a wide range of causes, including Blue Sky Bridge, the Excelsior Foundation, Share our Strength, The National Kidney Foundation, North High School, and the National Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, among others. She is dedicated to the LoHi community, and works closely with the Denver Highlands United Neighborhood, Inc. (HUNI) board. Together with HUNI, The Bindery has adopted Central Street in LoHi to create an opportunity for the restaurant and its employees to give back the community they call home.


Furthermore, Linda Hampsten Fox is committed to protecting Denver\'s natural environment and the greater health of the planet. Right in line with those values, Linda built The Bindery using sustainable practices, and was a big contributor in LoHi\'s efforts to continue the sustainable neighborhood designation.


Stars of the Industry – Manager of the Year

Mark Stanford, Truffle Pig Restaurant (Steamboat Springs)

Mark Stanford joined the Truffle Pig team a year ago with a deep passion for exceptional service and cultivating creative offerings. Mark excells as he shows up to work on a daily basis with an attitude and personality that exudes genuine passion for the opportunities that exist in front of him. Mark has created an aura around him that compels team members to approach him at any given moment with questions and ideas. He also garners a magnetic personality that summons the interest of our guests. He works professionally with our team of vendors to explain the culture of our business, while articulating exactly what our objectives are with their respective products. Most importantly, Mark has the very best interest of the business at heart. (video)


Stars of the Industry – Bartender of the Year

Michael Howk, The Palm (Denver)

Michael has been tending bar at The Palm since 1999. He has been part of the Denver restaurant scene since he was 20 years old and is much respected in his profession. His easy-going personality and booming laugh are just as much a part of The Palm as the characters on the walls. As any great bar tender, he fixes a mean drink, can tell a joke, give advice or simply listen. He is a team player, always there to lend a hand and his customer service is exemplary. Michael is the embodiment of a great and true bartender. (video)


Stars of the Industry – Front of House Employee of the Year

Thania Arroyo, \'Bout Time! Pub & Grub (Arvada)

Thania keeps the restaurant together, she is that person in the restaurant who always has a big smile and positive attitude. She demonstrates that working hard and being willing to learn will lead to great things. Thania started in the industry at 14-years-old and was with the same restaurant group for 11 years until persuaded to join the Bout Time team. Beginning with limited liquor knowledge, she has blossomed into a full bartender, trainer and now assistant manager of the restaurant. Thania is a mom, who is also expecting her second, and still shows up to work every day without a complaint. She exudes hospitality and is a perfect representative of our industry. (video)


Stars of the Industry – Legacy Employee

Milton Guevara, Illegal Pete\'s (Boulder)

Milton has been with Illegal Pete’s for 22 years. When he was hired he was new to the country and began as a cook. 22 years later he is the longest tenured employee and the GM of the Hill location in Boulder. Milton is called \"The Mayor\" because he knows everyone in town and never says no to a challenge or an opportunity to help in the community. (video)


Stars of the Industry – Legacy Employee

Rose Votta, Frasca Food and Wine (Boulder)

Rose has worked alongside Bobby Stuckey, beginning at The Little Nell in Aspen, for more than 20 years. She has been at Frasca since day one – when they opened 14 years ago. Rose is currently GM of Frasca and leads the team day in and day out, always pushing them forward and striving to be better than the day before. The team was nominated for Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Awards this year, and it is surely in large part due to her leadership and hospitality. (video)


Stars of the Industry – Legacy Employee

Julie Ludwig, Mi Casa Mexican Restaurant (Breckenridge)

Julie began her career with the Storm Restaurant Company as a waitress in 1989. She quickly moved up the ranks and held management roles at both the Hearthstone and Mi Casa, sometimes simultaneously.

In the mid 1990’s Julie’s energy and leadership were desired full time at Mi Casa. Julie’s efforts go beyond the typical management duties of recruiting, training, and developing staff. She is often teaching young staff, many of whom have never held a job before, life lessons of time management, teamwork, respect and most importantly, how to clean your uniform without a washing machine. Julie’s energy is infectious! She is committed to Mi Casa’s staff and guests as if they were her own family. Her 30 years of dedication to our industry is to be commended and honored. (video)


Stars of the Industry – Legacy Employee

JJ Johnson, The Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails (Steamboat Springs)

Tod (JJ) Johnson currently serves as General Manager at Laundry Restaurant, one of six restaurants operated by Steamboat Restaurant Group. After leaving CU, JJ moved to Steamboat Springs in 1988 and began learning every aspect of restaurant operations, both back and front of the house at Mazzola’s Italian Restaurant. By 1991, he was made night manager of the small local spot and began building a name for himself as one of the premier bartenders in Steamboat. In 2001, Rex Brice, owner of Steamboat Restaurant Group purchased Mazzola’s and kept Johnson on as part of his management team. JJ has since assisted with the planning and operation of every new concept the restaurant group has developed. His specialty, the creation of new and flavorful bar programs for each new venue. JJ enjoys the professional and personal relationships that are formed from being part of this often crazed and intoxicating profession! What brings it around full circle for Mr Johnson is that it all happened in this little mountain town he loves to call home… Steamboat Springs. As the current General Manager of The Laundry Kitchen & Cocktails he runs a very organized and tight ship. JJ takes great care in making sure his restaurant puts out the highest quality food, drink and service. Not only is JJ an industry pro and strong leader of one of the top restaurants in Steamboat he is also a pleasure to work with. (video)


Pinnacol Assurance Safety Award

Edible Beats - Root Down, Linger, Ophelia\'s, Vital Root, El Five (Denver)

This award is given to a CRA member that participates in the Colorado Restaurant Association / Pinnacol Assurance Safety Group Plan, the goal of which is to reward restaurants who operate a safe workplace. Through an ongoing commitment to promoting and practicing safety in the workplace, this year’s winner, Edible Beats, has established a model safety culture that enhances their restaurant’s success. (video)


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