ON THE INSIDE
NRA PRESENTS FACES
OF DIVERSITY AND
INSIDER continued from page 9
How does a new dish come to the menu?
I start with what’s in season and go from
there. After experimenting with a new
ingredient, I run the dish as a special to get
feedback from my diners. Once I have gotten
their tweaks on it, it goes on the menu.
mango, the avocado, the tomatoes—there is
a lot of contrast and interest. Also, now that
people are becoming more knowledgeable
about food in general, they understand that
there is more to Latin cuisine than beans and
rice, and they want to explore.
What advice would you give others who are
thinking of opening a restaurant?
Make sure you are doing it for the right
reasons—it’s a labor of love, and you have
to have drive and passion to work the hours.
For me, it’s just in my blood. I can’t imagine
doing anything else.
In April, the National Restaurant
Association (NRA) announced its 2011
Faces of Diversity and 2011 Restaurant
Neighbor Awards during its Public Affairs
Conference in Washington, D.C.
Do you have a favorite dish, or one that is a
My favorite dish is always the seviche of
the day, because it is always changing and
tends to showcase my latest experiments.
For instance, I recently featured a
seviche that included a gazpacho gelée.
It was really exciting to have this new
presentation that wowed my guests. As
far as customer favorites, the Churrascos
de Argentina is always popular. It’s a bold
combination of skirt steak and chimichurri
that always gets high marks.
In the American Dream Awards category,
Faces of Diversity Awards went to: Richard
Castro, McDonald’s franchisee, El Paso,
Texas; Berekti and Akberet Mengistu of
Mesob restaurant, Montclair, N.J.; and
Amporn Vasquez, executive chef at Pizza by
Elizabeths, Greenville, Del. In the Inspiration
Award category, recipients were The Culinary
Institute of America (CIA) and Silver Ventures
Inc., San Antonio. The CIA was recognized for
attempting to increase the number of Hispanic
managers and restaurant owners/operators in
business through its El Sueño initiative.
Why is Latin-American cuisine so popular
I think, on a sensual level, Latin food is
vibrant and bold, from color to texture to
flavor, and that is attractive to people. The
What gives you pleasure on the job every day?
The feeling that I have created something
that brings happiness to others. Cooking
is like music. You are presenting a part
of yourself to the crowd, and when you
get that standing ovation, everything else
fades into the background. I may have
worked the longest day of the year, or
burned myself at the stove, but when I see
that I have created a great experience for
someone, it makes it all worth it.
NRA also announced its Restaurant
Neighbor Award recipients: Eat’n Park
Hospitality Group, Pittsburgh; Charleston
Chefs Feed The Need, Charleston, S.C.;
and Kona Kai Coffee Company, Kent,
Wash. In addition, Michael Whalen,
president and chief executive of Moline,
Iowa-based Heart of America Restaurants,
was named Cornerstone Humanitarian.
The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) held its 10th Annual National
ProStart Invitational in Overland Park, Kan., April 29-30, awarding $1.4 million in scholarships to
the first- through fifth-place teams to pursue education in foodservice and hospitality programs.
Newport Harbor High School, Newport, Calif., won both the culinary and management competitions.
Student teams from 40 states and territories competed, watched by students, educators, mentors,
state restaurant association representatives, industry professionals and NRAEF trustees.
Carlton Curtis, vice president, Industry Affairs, Coca-Cola Foodservice and chair of NRAEF, left, and Dawn
Sweeney, president/CEO of NRA and NRAEF,
far right, congratulate the first-place management
competition championship team from Newport
Harbor High School, from left to right: mentor Nanette
Mc Whertor, educator Janet Dukes, and students Eliza
Stubbings, Kimberly Tessers and Kellyn Perham.
NRAEF HOLDS 10TH ANNUAL NATIONAL
In the culinary competition, Kansas’ Olathe District Schools earned second place, and South Forsyth
High School of Georgia came in third. In the management competition, Cloudcroft High School of New
Mexico came in second, and North Carolina’s Watauga High School placed third. To view all
of this year’s winners, visit www.prostart.restaurant.org.