The winners of the 2014 Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards were announced Sunday, Nov. 2 at The Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta. The GRACE Awards is the Georgia Restaurant Association’s (GRA) annual black-tie gala event honoring Georgia’s restaurant industry. Jim Stacy, host of the Cooking Channel's “Offbeat Eats” and owner of Pallookaville Fine Foods, served as the Master of Ceremonies and Seven Handle Circus provided live musical entertainment.
The GRACE Awards are peer-nominated and winners are selected by the GRACE Academy. GRACE winners are presented with crystal works of art created by renowned local artist Hans Godo Frabel. Additionally, a portion of the proceeds from this event goes to the Atlanta Community Food Bank.
2014 GRACE Awards Winners:
Lifetime Achievement Award – Hal Nowak of Hal's on Old Ivy
After 22 years in Atlanta, Hal Nowak has established himself as a successful and well- known restaurateur. Hal’s on Old Ivy has become an Atlanta institution – priding itself on serving great quality steaks and seafood, great service and giving great value. Originally from New Orleans, Nowak brought his New Orleans flare and personality to the Atlanta dining scene. Hal’s quickly gained hundreds, if not thousands, of loyal patrons over the years and Nowak is well-respected by the industry, his peers and loyal staff.
Nowak has also been active in many charitable organizations over the years, and even brought in women and children from the battered women’s shelter and fed them Thanksgiving dinner for over 10 years. Hal serves on the board of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and is a founding board member of the Hospitality Business Network Foundation.
Chairman's Award Honoree – Commissioner Gary W. Black, Georgia Department of Agriculture
Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black is the sixteenth Georgian to hold the office of Commissioner of Agriculture since the department’s inception in 1874. He began his career with the Georgia Farm Bureau leading the young farmer leadership development program.
He served 21 years as president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, a chamber-like organization representing all facets of Georgia’s food and fiber industry.
Commissioner Black strives to foster a relationship between chefs and farmers across the state and bring awareness of Georgia grown food to Georgians while they are dining out. Commissioner Black was chosen for the Chairman’s Award because he is helping to educate Georgia on the importance of eating local and assisting in bringing that into Georgia’s restaurants.
Industry Partner of the Year – Georgia Power
Georgia Power, the largest operating company within Southern Company, has been providing electricity to Georgia for more than a century.
Georgia Power focuses on helping customers save time and money, while being energy efficient in today’s commercial kitchen. Georgia Power also offers customers a range of incentives, including rebates, to help them set up their kitchens. At Georgia Power’s Customer Resource Center, their Foodservice Team demonstrates the latest advancements in electric induction cooking equipment as well as the latest electric end- use technologies and energy efficient products.
Georgia Power works closely with farmers across the state and are a supporter of the National Restaurant Association, Atlanta Chefs Federation, Manufacturers to the Food Service Industry and the Georgia School Nutrition Association.
Distinguished Service Award – Bill Bolling, Atlanta Community Food Bank
Bill Bolling has served as executive director of the Atlanta Community Food Bank since founding the organization in 1979. In this capacity, he oversees the distribution of more than 35 million pounds of food and grocery products each year through a network of 600 local and regional partner nonprofit organizations that feed the hungry across 29 Georgia counties.
The mission of the Atlanta Community Food Bank is to fight hunger by engaging, educating and empowering the community. Their mission extends beyond that, and is lived out every day through projects that help engage, educate and empower both people in need and those who want help. From supporting community gardens to assisting people in finding economic security, ACFB covers a wide range of opportunities for people to learn and get involved.
The Innovator Award – Kevin Gillespie, Gunshow
In May 2013, Chef Kevin Gillespie opened his restaurant, Gunshow, in the Glenwood Park neighborhood of Atlanta. The restaurant features a unique dining style where Gillespie prepares both refined and rustic dishes and sends them out to the small dining room for guests to choose from. The menu is ever evolving with delicious food that is seasonally rooted, locally focused and unlimited in its stylistic boundaries. In February 2014, Gunshow earned the seventh spot on GQ magazine’s list of 12 Most Outstanding Restaurants. Gunshow was also recently recognized as one of Esquire magazine’s best new restaurant in America.
Gillespie’s true passion lies in serving his guests quality food every day. This enthusiasm means incorporating the use of fresh, organic and sustainable ingredients in all of his dishes.
Restaurateur of the Year Award – Ben and Jennifer Johnson, Shelley Sweet, West Egg Cafe, The General Muir, Fred's Meat & Bread, Yalla and Todd Ginsberg, The General Muir, Fred's Meat & Bread, Yalla
Ben and Jennifer Johnson opened West Egg in March 2004 hoping to create a comfortable environment that might help anchor a growing community. West Egg celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
Shelley Sweet began her restaurant career at West Egg in 2004. She joined the Concentrics Restaurants group in 2006, but rejoined West Egg in 2011 as general manager, becoming a partner in 2014.
The partnership between Jennifer and Ben Johnson, Sweet and Ginsberg started in 2011 and emerged with the opening of The General Muir in January 2013. The restaurant would go on to receive a number of accolades, including Atlanta magazine’s Restaurant of the Year, Eater Atlanta’s Restaurant of the Year, Creative Loafing’s Best New Restaurant, one of Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants, and one of GQ magazine’s 25 Best New Restaurants. Additionally, Ginsberg was named a 2014 James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast. The four are opening two restaurant stalls within the new Krog Street Market: Fred’s Meat & Bread and Yalla.
Source: Georgia Restaurant Association