Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association

Kansas City restaurant industry awards announced in 11 categories at Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association annual event

More than $20,000 in scholarships awarded to next-generation of leaders


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (Oct. 1, 2018) – The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association’s (GKCRA) annual Gilbert/Robinson (GR) Leadership and Awards Dinner unveiled restaurant-industry awards in a total of 11 categories. Preceding the 11 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 Sept. 30 event featured keynote speaker, locally renowned, Renee Kelly.

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 through both the GKCRA’s members and allied members. The GKCRA announced 11 award recipients, honoring the top leadership in categories ranging from bartender, server, chef and catering manager. All award-winners were nominated by an employer or colleague and voted on by industry peers. Winners are as follows:

Chef of the Year

Name: Laura Comer

Name of Restaurant: Kauffman Center Dining Experience


Heart of the House Employee

Name: Mary Soriso

Name of Restaurant: Manny’s


Server of the Year

Name: Vicky Lindsay

Name of Restaurant: Trago Bars & Tapas


Pitmaster of the Year

Name: Wayne Garrett

Name of Restaurant: Arthur Bryant’s Barbeque


General Manager of the Year

Name: Gene O’Dell

Name of Restaurant: Hereford House

Catering Manager of the Year

Name: Robbie McGowan

Name of Restaurant: Pierpont’s at Union Station


Overall Employee of the Year

Name: Jamie Martin

Name of Restaurant: Jack Stack’s Barbecue

Apprentice of the Year

Name: Swetha Gondi

Name of Restaurant: Capital Grille

Prostart Educator of the Year

Name: Mike Chrostowski

Name of School: Herndon Career Center


Allied Employee of the Year

Name: Michelle Vun Cannon

Name of Company: Affinity Group


Bartender of the Year                                                      

Name: Tamrah Edwards                                                   

Name of Restaurant: Char Bar


Scholarship Recipients

The GKCRA presented 17 scholarships to area culinary and hospitality students at the Sept. 30 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.

·        Cecilla Knight


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.

·        Brett Robinson

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

·        Mila Gaza


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 was an internationally known chef and was previously a judge for the American Culinary Institute.

·        Kellen Marcum


Richard May Scholarship:

·        Sydnee Caton


GKCRA Scholarships:

·        Race Shepard

·        Grace Muller

·        Levi Barkley

·        Hayley Green

·        Bailey Sargent

·        Travis Martin

·        Nathan Larson

·        Trevor McPherson

·        Jasmine Chandler

·        Jose Rios Rico

·        Riley Seuser

·        Marqueana Johnson


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 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