Illinois Restaurant Association Honors Six with Living Legend Awards

Illinois Restaurant Association Honors Six with Living Legend Awards

Congratulations to the six Chicagoans who were recently honored with Living Legends Awards from the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA).  This award honored "exceptional members who have committed their lives to enriching Illinois' cuisine and culture."  We love them all and thank them for shining a light on the Windy City's incredible restaurant culture that is known the world over!

 

And the winners are:

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Rich Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises / Outstanding Restaurateur Award: Honors the restaurant owner or manager who is committed to the time-honored tradition of showing exceptional originality, quality and service to customers and looked up to by his or her fellow operators, employees and community.

In 1971, along with Jerry Orzoff, Richard Melman opened R.J. Grunts in Chicago. A fun restaurant that I remember fondly that served food with a sense of humor and was one of the first buffets ever offered. Grunts became a forerunner of the dining entertainment trend. Today, Lettuce Entertain You operates more than 100 restaurants nationwide with approximately 6,000 people employed by the group.

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Rick Bayless /Outstanding Chef Award: Recognizes a chef in Illinois whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals.

Rick Bayless founded Frontera Grill in Chicago in 1987 and has since expanded his area restaurants to include Topolobampo, Xoco, Tortas Frontera, and Fontera Fresco.  Bayless, a celebrity chef and bestselling author is recognized for his many philanthropic endeavors and award winning restaurants nation wide.  (He also serves the best margaritas in the city according to my husband!)

 

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Turano Baking Company/Outstanding Vendor Award: Recognizes an individual or company with a longstanding reputation for providing superior service and quality products in the industry.

 

Mariano Turano founded his first bakery in 1962. To meet the demand of his quality breads, Mariano implemented a delivery route himself. His passion and persistence helped build Turano's reputation of reliability that lives on today. Still family-owned, Turano delivers fresh products daily throughout the nation.

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Sysco Chicago/Sara Rowe ProStart® Company Award: Honors a company that has demonstrated a continued dedication of going above and beyond the call of duty to support the IRAEF's ProStart® Program and its students.  

Sysco, a global leader in selling, marketing and distributing product, supplies, and equipment to the foodservice and hospitality industries, operates 193 facilities serving approximately 425,000 customers. Sysco has been a generous supporter of the Illinois Restaurant Association Educational Foundation's ProStart Invitational for over a decade.

 

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Kathryn Thanas, Lou Mitchell's /Humanitarian Award: Acknowledges an individual or organization working in the Illinois restaurant industry who has given selflessly and worked tirelessly to better the lives of others and society at large.

 

Lou Mitchell's was established in 1923 and is owned today by Lou's niece, Kathryn Thanas. The Thanas family continues the hospitality traditions of this culinary landmark through partnerships with the Good Shepherd House, the IRAEF ProStart Program, the Haymarket Homeless Shelter run by St. Pat's Church, and through community work programs.

 

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Frank Sgro, Italian Village/Guardian of Tradition Award: Spotlights a restaurant professional whose hospitality has helped keep alive a standard of service and character of community. 

     

Frank Sgro began working at Italian Village in 1959.  Today, now in his 60's, Sgro serves as the restaurant's dedicated maître d' that has helmed the front of house at Italian Village for more than 50 years. He is as much of an Italian institution and pillar of hospitality as the restaurant is itself.   

 

Founded in 1914, the IRA is the largest private sector employer in the state. It also champions Illinois' rich culinary diversity, world-class chefs and restaurants annually by organizing events including Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet, Taste of Chicago, From the Chef's Table, and others.  (For more info, visit  www.illinoisrestaurants.org)

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