By Dana Slone
The Connecticut Restaurant Association (CRA) held their annual “Salute to Excellence” Awards Dinner on December 1, 2015 at the Mohegan Sun Ballroom. The event honored many of Connecticut’s restaurants, caterers, chefs and bartenders with more than 400 people attending the sold-out event.
This year’s Awards Dinner recognized Dish Restaurant Group as the 2015 Restaurateur of the Year, Ecolab as their Vendor of the Year, and State Representative David Rutigliano of Trumbull as their Friend of the Industry.
A Lifetime Achievement Award was presented posthumously to Frederick A. DeLuca, the founder of Subway. DeLuca opened the first Subway restaurant in Bridgeport. Flanders Fish Market & Restaurant of East Lyme and Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning of Stamford were both inducted into CRA’s Connecticut Hospitality Hall of Fame.
“It is great that we have the opportunity to bring restaurant leaders from across the state together to celebrate the talent of our local chefs and the achievements of our restaurants,” said CRA Board Chairman, Phil Barnett of the Hartford Restaurant Group.
“I am thrilled to be honoring these superb restaurants, caterers, chefs, servers and mixologists, who have demonstrated a passion for offering outstanding food and beverages,” said CRA Executive Director, Nicole Griffin. During the event, Griffin introduced Sarah Maloney as the new Executive Director. Griffin will remain with CRA as a lobbyist.
The Connecticut Restaurant Association’s mission is to serve as the voice of Connecticut’s restaurants in advocacy, education and awareness. It is affiliated with the National Restaurant Association, and is Connecticut’s only not-for-profit representing the state’s restaurant industry.
Awards from online, public voting included Server of the Year, Kristy Mahler, Agave, Hartford; Casual Restaurant of Year, Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, Hartford; Upscale Restaurant of the Year, Fresh Salt, Old Saybrook; Caterer of the Year, Max Catering, Hartford; Connecticut Distributors, Inc. (CDI)/Pernod Ricard Mixologist of the Year, Dimitrios Zahariadis, Highland Brass Company, Waterbury; and Chef of the Year, Billy Grant, Grants & Bricco Restaurants, West Hartford and Glastonbury.
Larry Cafero, Executive Director of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Connecticut (WSWC), served as event emcee.