The winners of the 2015 Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards were announced Sunday, November 1 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 Willie Ziavino & C.O.T Band 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.
“The GRACE Awards is our chance to pay tribute to those who have demonstrated standards of excellence and serve as an inspiration to others in the restaurant industry and our community. On behalf of the organization, I am proud of the members we have and the outstanding accomplishments they make day in and day out,” says Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association.
2015 GRACE Awards Winners:
Lifetime Achievement Award – Doug McKendrick, McKendrick’s Steakhouse
Since its opening in 1995, McKendrick’s Steakhouse has enjoyed continuous success as one of Atlanta’s must-attend restaurants for any special occasion. It has also been rated as one of the coveted few Great Steak Houses of North America. McKendrick’s Steakhouse offers classic steakhouse dishes as well as off-menu cuts combined with locally grown fresh produce. It has also been named one of the top steakhouses in Atlanta by Zagat, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Open Table, and more.
McKendrick began his journey in the restaurant industry as the vice president of finance at Mimi’s and Max’s Restaurants formerly in the Omni Hotel in downtown Atlanta. Aside from running a successful steakhouse in Atlanta, McKendrick is also involved in organizations including Dunwoody Schools, Wounded Warriors, Camp Twin Lakes, and American Cancer Society.
Industry Partner of the Year – The Giving Kitchen
The Giving Kitchen (TGK) provides emergency assistance grants to those in the Atlanta restaurant community facing unanticipated hardship. TGK offers two types of grants, one covering the basic living expenses of those struggling as well as a grant that matches funds raised by a restaurant team on their behalf.
It all started when Atlanta Chef, Ryan Hidinger, was diagnosed with stage four cancer in December 2012. Following the diagnosis, the community rallied together to provide love and financial support. What started as helping out a fellow chef in his time of need has since evolved into something broader. The Giving Kitchen has achieved great success since its inception. They have provided more than 250 crisis grants totaling $500,000 for restaurant workers.
Distinguished Service Award – Fifth Group Restaurants
Since 1993, a love of food and desire to share it with the world has guided Fifth Group Restaurants to the success it has today, growing from one restaurant to seven. Its dedication to drive Atlanta’s reputation has led it to provide a superb dining experience, high quality food, and a connection to guests that makes them return time and time again. Within the community, they also give back by participating in the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Hunger Walk/Run as the top corporate sponsor of the event for the past seven years, raising more than $250,000.
They are the founder and presenting sponsor of Taste of the Highlands, which benefits Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Sustainability has also been a core value since the beginning, recycling and composting 95 percent of its product and diverting more than 500,000 pounds of waste destined for landfills annually.