Kansas City’s restaurant and hospitality awards announced in 23 categories and scholarships awarded to next-generation of leaders

Keynote author’s “Kansas City: A Food Biography” inspires menu and is a centerpiece of the annual Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association Leadership and Awards Dinner

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Oct. 10, 2016) — The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association’s (GKCRA) annual Gilbert Robinson (GR) Leadership and Awards Dinner presented by Sysco unveiled restaurant-industry awards in a total of 23 categories. Following the 23 awards, the GKCRA presented area culinary and hospitality students with more than $20,000 to help prepare Kansas City’s next generation of restaurant leaders. The Oct. 9 event featured a keynote address from Johnson County Community College professor Andrea Broomfield, author of “Kansas City: A Food Biography”, including a menu from Kansas City’s history, with dishes inspired by Putsch’s, Stephenson’s Orchard, Ruby’s and Italian Gardens.

Kansas City Hospitality Employee of the Year Awards
The GR Dinner presented by Sysco recognizes the outstanding contributions to the Kansas City restaurant industry by businesses and individuals though both the GKCRA’s members and allied members. Following the keynote address, the GKCRA announced 23 award recipients, honoring the top leadership in categories ranging from bartender, server, chef and media. All award-winners were nominated by an employer or colleague and voted on by industry peers. None of the recipients were notified of their award in advance. Winners are as follows:

Bartender of the Year
                                                                        Chef of the Year 
Rikki Duncan                                                                            Name: Robert Berutti
Name of Restaurant: Nick & Jake’s                                                  Name of Restaurant: Ventana Gourmet Grill

Bar Manager of the Year
                                                                   Server of the Year
Josh Lehne                                                                              Name: Steven Cowan
Name of Restaurant:
JJ’s                                                                  Name of Business: The Capital Grille

General Manager of the Year
                                                           Catering Manager of the Year
Michael Werner                                                                       Name: Dallas Miller
Name of Restaurant: The Jacobson                                                Name of Restaurant: Company Kitchen

Employee of the Year
                                                                        Heart of the House Employee of the Year
Name: George Clarke                                                                         Name: Margaret Adams
Name of Restaurant: Charlie Hooper’s                                           Name of Business: Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar

Chef Apprentice of the Year
                                                            Allied Employee of the Year
Name: Leonardo Foschi                                                                    Name: Steve Holle
Name of Business: Lidia’s                                                                Name of Business: KC Bier Company

Sous Chef of the Year
                                                                      Mixologist of the Year 
Javier Carrillo                                                                         Name: Noah Robinson 
Name of Business
: Q39                                                                    Name of Business: Capital Grille

BOH Manager of the Year
                                                               BOH Employee of the Year
Bernabe Palacios                                                                  Name: Raul Vasquez-Pena
Name of Restaurant: Rudy’s                                                            Name of Restaurant: LongHorn Steakhouse

FOH Manager of the Year
                                                                FOH Employee of the Year
Keith Goldman                                                                       Name: Jonathon Vallejas
Name of Restaurant: The American                                               Name of Restaurant: Garozzo’s

Workhorse BOH Employee of the Year 
                                        Workhorse FOH Employee of the Year
Thomas Pelkey                                                                     Name: Kari Cotrell
Name of Restaurant: Story                                                              Name of Restaurant: Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen

ProStart Teacher of the Year
                                                        Educator of the Year 
Cheryl Landers                                                                     Name: Felix Sturmer
Name of School: Grandview                                                           Name of Organization: JCCC

Dietary Aid of the Year
                                                                   Media Company of the Year 
Name: Henry Freeman                                                                     Name: Catherine Neville
Name of Restaurant: Kingswood Properties                               Name of Business: Feast Magazine

Rising Star of the Year 
Nathan Nichols 
Name of Restaurant/Business
: Gram & Dun

Scholarship Recipients
The GKCRA presented eight scholarships to area culinary and hospitality students at the Oct. 10 event. The scholarships ranged from $1,500 to $2,500, in addition to matched funds through the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation and the Missouri Restaurant Association. Because of these matched fund contributions, the GKCRA was able to award more than $20,000 to Kansas City students seeking a degree or certificate in a hospitality or restaurant-related field. Scholarship recipients are as follows:

James H. Block Scholarship:
Named after a Kansas City icon in commercial real estate and restaurant development, Jimmy Block was a pioneer responsible for building, opening and operating franchised restaurants in and around the Kansas City area. Block owned and operated more than 50 restaurants in the Kansas City region and Nevada, including Kansas City’s original franchises for Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

· Isaac Dominguez

Jerry Vincent Scholarship:
Jerry Vincent has served the industry for four decades. He started the Hospitality Management Program at Johnson County Community College in 1965 and previously worked as the Membership Director for the Missouri Restaurant Association.

· Derek Gimson

Joe Adelman Scholarship:
The Joe Adelman Scholarship is dedicated to encouraging the growth of minorities in the hospitality industry.

· Lashay Williams

John Joyce Scholarship:
As a mentor to many students, John Joyce truly believed that students are the future, therefore creating the scholarship to fund future students’ education in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Joyce is an internationally known chef and is a judge for the American Culinary Institute.

· Breanna Durrett

ProStart High School Scholarship:
The ProStart High School scholarship is awarded to multiple Kansas City-area ProStart students attending a post-secondary hospitality or culinary program upon graduation.

· Aubriel Smith

GKCRA Scholarships:

· Jaymee Fee

· Chad Brown

· Kala Welloff

About Gilbert-Robinson
The Gilbert Robinson Dinner celebrates a standard of excellence set by former Kansas City restaurant firm, Gilbert-Robinson. Founded in 1961, the Kansas City-based restaurant company became a national leader in the industry with distinguished innovations in menu, decor and service. The group created several legendary concepts in the Kansas City, including Houlihan’s, Bristol Seafood Grill, Fedora Café and Bar, Plaza III and Fred P. Ott’s.

About Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association

The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association (GKCRA) celebrated 100 years representing the restaurant and hospitality industry on Jan. 30, 2016. The GKCRA was established in 1916 in order to take a stand against the rising cost of eggs; when these efforts received national attention, the same group launched the National Restaurant Association (NRA) in 1919. The GKCRA pioneered efforts for restaurant associations across the country. The NRA headquarters remained in Kansas City until 1927.

The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association (GKCRA) is an active association working to represent, educate and promote the restaurant and hospitality industries in the Missouri counties of Cass, Clay, Jackson, and Platte and Kansas counties of Johnson, Leavenworth and Wyandotte with members consisting of restaurants, caterers, hospitals, schools, institutions, clubs and business serving the restaurant industries (allied members). For more information on the GKCRA, “like” us on Facebook at or follow the GKCRA on Twitter at