This year you have read in this column about many contributors to the state’s successful restaurant community, from chefs and restaurateurs to winemakers and farmers. All can be considered stars of the industry.
The Rhode Island Hospitality Association each year awards Stars of the Industry awards to a wide range of movers and shakers in the state’s hotel, restaurant and tourism industries. The Class of 2012 includes many friends of the business and colleagues who work very hard and most of the time out of the spotlight.
The association presented its awards at its annual year-end meeting in late November. Restaurateur of the year is Jacky Ko, proprietor of Jackys Galaxie, the group of Asian-themed, fine-dining restaurants throughout Rhode Island, including the popular location overlooking Waterplace Park. Chef of the year is longtime favorite J. Daniel Knerr, who has been at the helm at The Black Pearl in Newport for many years. Newport was well-represented at this year’s Stars of the Industry with people from seven venues and organizations receiving awards. Hotelier of the year is Mark Gervais, the Hotel Viking’s general manager.
The restaurant-neighbor award winner this year is Seven Stars Bakery, which will join award winners from each of the 50 states vying for the national award in September in Washington, D.C.
Bahjat Shariff of the Panera Bread café franchisee Howley Bread Group received the faces-of-diversity award. Caterer of the year is Fine Catering by Russell Morin. This iconic business has added to its longstanding reputation for quality by establishing catering and event planning at iconic venues such as Rhodes on the Pawtuxet and even the Providence Public Library. Speaking of icons, the Mary Brennan tourism award was presented to Myrna George, of the South County Tourism Council, who in years past has brought her area national recognition.