A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending the fourth annual Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (Grace) Awards at the gorgeous new Loew’s Hotel in Midtown, Atlanta. I was really excited about this event, not only because my good friend and mentor, Kat Cole, was nominated for an Award but also because it was a “Green Tie” Affair.
The “Glitz Goes Green” event was a collaboration between the Georgia Restaurant Association and the Green Foodservice Alliance. The event is also going to serve as a benchmark case study for the Sustainability Division of the Department of Natural Resources – big stuff! The commitment to using Local, Sustainable, and Green resources was apparent throughout the event. I had a ball running around, taking photos of all of the sustainable décor. I loved the centerpieces made from fresh basil and oregano which was replanted after the event!
As you might expect from an event hosted by the Georgia Restaurant Association, we were treated to an amazing meal featuring many locally sourced foods. My favorite dish was the Apalachicola shrimp served with Athen’s Red Mule grits – absolutely delicious. I seriously can’t remember the last time I had grits that good! According to attendee Holly Elmore, pre-portioned meat was purchased to eliminate prep scraps and energy conservation was a focus with food preparation and dish washing procedures.
We heard from many distinguished chefs and award recipients including the winner of the Innovator Award, Chef Ron Eyester of Rosebud, also known as @TheAngry Chef on twitter, the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Mark and Nancy Oswald of Ruth’s Chris Steak house, and keynote speaker Chef Kevin Gillespie, Executive Chef and Partner at Woodfire Grill. I especially enjoyed hearing Chef Gillespie speak about the Farm to Table movement, the connection between people and food, his roots, and what it was like to grow up in a sustainable family when sustainable wasn’t so cool. He reminded us that food isn’t just something on your plate and it’s not just something that fills you up. Food tells a story, it connects people like nothing else can. The food we eat is what makes us who we are.
The highlight of the evening though was seeing my friend Kat Cole win the Distinguished Service Award. Kat’s blog is titled: The Difference: Making the World a Better Place, One Person, Team & Business at a Time through Communication, Community, and Leadership. This title truly describes Kat. While we all have 24 hours in our days, Kat must have at least 48 hours in hers because I have no idea how she accomplishes so much. COO of Cinnabon, MBA student, author, athlete, speaker, volunteer, coach, Kat makes a difference in everything she does. I want to congratulate Kat for winning this distinguished award and thank her for inviting me to share in this special moment. I also want to thank her for making such an impact in my life.
Many thanks also to the Georgia Restaurant Association, the Green Foodservice Alliance, the Loew’s Hotel and everyone who helped organize this fantastic evening. I hope this is the first of many future Green Tie events.