The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) announced that Ralph Brennan, esteemed restaurateur and president of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, has been named the 2011 Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality.

Brennan will be honored at the 25th Annual Salute to Excellence on Saturday, May 21, 2011, at the Hilton Chicago. Kicking off the annual National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, this is the NRAEF’s premier fundraising event and pays tribute to the industry’s extraordinary leaders.

“We are thrilled to recognize Ralph Brennan and his extraordinary accomplishments with the NRAEF’s highest honor,” says Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association and NRAEF. “Each of our Ambassadors has demonstrated significant dedication to education and excellence in our industry, as well as a commitment to serving their communities,” Sweeney says. “Ralph exemplifies these qualities through his steadfast support of the ProStart program, his efforts to revitalize New Orleans and assist its citizens following Hurricane Katrina, and his leadership in representing the restaurant industry after the 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill.”

Ralph Brennan’s passion for restaurants and hospitality was ignited as a teenager in the 1960’s with a summer job as a prep cook at the original Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street in the New Orleans French Quarter.

A third-generation restaurateur, Ralph is the owner and operator of Red Fish Grill in the New Orleans French Quarter, Ralph’s on the Park in Mid-City New Orleans, Ralph Brennan’s Courtyard Cafe housed inside New Orleans Museum of Art, the upcoming Heritage Grill (March 2011), café b (April 2011), Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen located in the Downtown Disney District at the DISNEYLAND Resort, and Ralph Brennan Catering & Events. Ralph is a co-owner of Mr. B’s Bistro and Commander’s Palace in New Orleans and Brennan’s of Houston. Additionally, for twenty years, Ralph owned and operated the DiRoNa Award winning BACCO restaurant in New Orleans and is presently relocating this concept.

Brennan’s accomplishments are equaled by his commitment to public service within the industry. A local leader and friend of business and tourism, he is past president of the Louisiana Restaurant Association and the New Orleans Restaurant Association. His dedication and service to the city of New Orleans during challenging times has earned him extensive local and national praise. Specifically, his quick response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and perseverance in locating employees and their families resulted in the opening of his restaurants within one month after the disaster struck.

In honor of his employee-friendly, post-Katrina business practices and the speed at which he re-opened his three New Orleans-based restaurants, Ralph Brennan was named 2005 restaurateur of the year by Tom Fitzmorris, a leading restaurant critic in New Orleans, frequent contributor to local and national food publications, and host of “The Food Show” on WSMB and WWL Radio.

Brennan has most recently been a significant voice for New Orleans in response to the Gulf Coast oil spill. He recently addressed Congress on behalf of the NRA and the Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi restaurant industries to urge Congress to counter misconceptions about the oil spill. The hearing addressed the long-term consequences and impact on tourism, and Brennan’s testimony helped lawmakers understand what they can do to further help the region recover.

The Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award is the premiere award bestowed by the NRAEF. The award is presented annually to an individual who has shown extraordinary achievement and exemplary leadership in bringing public focus to the hospitality industry through philanthropy and community service. Brennan will receive the award at the NRAEF’s most highly anticipated social event of the year, Salute to Excellence. This black-tie optional gala brings together the restaurant and foodservice industry’s most respected leaders for an evening of celebration and networking—all to benefit the ProStart program (the NRAEF’s proven, high-impact career development program for high school students) and the NRAEF Scholarship Program. As a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Salute to Excellence, the NRAEF will highlight 25 years of honorees.

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