Oct. 2, 2015
The Kansas City restaurant community turned out in full force Thursday night for the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association’s annual Gilbert Robinson Leadership and Awards Dinner.
The event is named after the Kansas City restaurant firm Gilbert-Robinson, who set the standard for excellence and innovation in menu, décor and service for the industry in Kansas City with restaurant concepts like Houlihan’s, Bristol Seafood Grill, Plaza III and Fred P. Ott’s.
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich not only served as the keynote speaker, but also catered the entire dinner from Lidia’s, her restaurant located in the Freighthouse District in the Crossroads.
“The Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association is honored to have such an icon of our industry present at an event celebrating the future leaders of Kansas City’s vibrant and thriving hospitality community,” Shannon Hickey, executive director for the GKCRA, said.
For the first time, the event was held at the Johnson County Community College’s impressive new Hospitality and Culinary Academy. The night started on the school’s outdoor patio, where a special VIP event was held including a meet-and-greet with Bastianich and a signed cookbook.
As the party moved indoors, wine poured into glasses, as guests were served a beautiful feast by Lidia’s. This included insalata Cotta e Cruda, a hearty and rich lasagna bolognese with ricotta and besciamella, and a dish called Battutina di Maiale, which was pork medallions with mushrooms and fontina cheese. Dessert was a visual delight with a beautifully striped semi-freddo made from blackberry, chocolate and orange ice cream.
The emcee for the event was David Lopez, owner of Manny’s Mexican Restaurant. He kept the tone light, with inside industry jokes mixing effortlessly with his genuine excitement for the winners as he called their names and they took to the stage to accept their awards.
This annual event gives out awards in 20 categories related to outstanding work and leadership in Kansas City’s restaurant industry. All winners were nominated by an employer, customer or colleague and voted on by industry peers. None of the recipients were notified of their award in advance.
Notable wins of the night were chef Rob Magee, owner of Q39, who walked away with the 2015 Chef of the Year award.
“I had no idea that I was going to receive the award for chef of the year tonight – I was just here to enjoy a rare night out with my wife,” Magee said, grinning from ear to ear on the unexpected win.
Jeff Thrall, general manager at Story, took home the 2015 Manager of the Year award, and Derek Klaus of Visit KC took home the 2015 Media Person of the Year.
Kevin Timmons, the co-owner of Nick and Jake’s, won the final award of Restaurateur of the Year. He has worked in the restaurant industry from a young age, from washing dishes in the kitchen to opening restaurants. Timmons opened Nick and Jake’s in July 2001, and has since opened two additional Nick and Jake’s restaurants in the greater Kansas City area.
Bastianich took the stage after all of the awards were given out. After asking everyone in the kitchen to come out and take a bow, she talked about her experience cooking for Pope Francis last week and about her childhood that led her to America. She ended on a message of always showing support for your fellow restaurant workers.
Here is a full list of the winners from last nights 2015 GKCRA’s Gilbert Robinson Leadership Awards.
Bartender of the Year: Jayne Montgomery, Jazz a Louisiana Kitchen
Chef of the Year: Rob Magee, Q39
Host of the Year: Abigail Uche, Seasons 52
Server of the Year: Alex Kneeland, Kingswood Senior Center
Manager of the Year: Jeff Thrall, Story
Porter of the Year: Greg Schmidt, Cascone’s Restaurant
Overall Employee of the Year: Brant Rosen, Barley’s Brewhaus
Heart of the House Employee of the Year: Vince Paredes, Marriott Downtown
Office Employee of the Year: Lauren Makin, KC Hopps
Allied Office Employee of the Year: Vita Grant, Excel Linen Supply
Allied Employee of the Year: Tony DeAngelo, C&C Produce
Media Person of the Year: Derek Klaus, Visit KC
ProStart Leader of the Year: Barbara Skoglund, NKC High School
Rising Star of the Year: Shelby Fahmi, Lidia’s Kansas City
Outstanding Allied Director of the Year: Lynn Corbett, Heartland Payment Systems
Edwin G. Gray Service Award: Marty Elton, Jazz, A Louisiana Kitchen
Hospitalitarian of the Year: Cathy Pickens, Coach’s Bar and Grill
Philanthropist of the Year: Tony Muehe, Treat America Food Service and YMCA of Greater KC
Work Horse Award: Jane Redmond, Edward Jones
Work Horse Award: Janet Dickey, LongHorn Steakhouse
Congrats to all of this year’s winners!