The two major distinctions awarded were the Distinguished Service Award and the Distinguished Industry Leadership Award. The two awards are the highest honor given by the ORA and are presented to individuals who have displayed a longstanding commitment and leadership in Oklahoma’s hospitality industry.
The Distinguished Service Award was bestowed to Joseph Bear with Coney Island Hot Weiners from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Bear has dedicated 50 years to the food service industry and 44 of those years have been with Coney Island Hot Weiners.
“Joe has made a lasting impact during his time at Coney Island,” said Vicki Economou, owner of Coney Island Hot Weiners. “He is known by his co-workers as the guy who comes in every day with a smile and has the best work ethic.”
The Distinguished Leadership Award, presented to a long-standing ORA member who has demonstrated continuous support for the industry, was presented to Jim Hopper, who served 17 years as CEO and President of the Oklahoma Restaurant Association and the Oklahoma Hotel & Lodging Association.
“During Jim’s tenure, he would show up every day and be a true example of poised leadership,” said Patti Colley, ORA’s Chief Strategy Officer. “Jim has been a staple to the recovery and progression of Oklahoma’s hospitality industry and he is more than deserving of this award.”
Honorees from more than 30 restaurants were given a commemorative gift and were eligible for raffle prizes and cash awards. Additionally, a $1,000 cash prize was presented to Kay Patel from Hero Hospitality.
The proceeds from the Hirst Hospitality Awards support the Oklahoma Hospitality Foundation. The funds go back into the restaurant community in the form of scholarships to students engaged in culinary, restaurant management, and hospitality-related studies.
“The scholarship fund is a great way for the foundation to invest in the future of our most precious resource, hospitality professionals,” said Jimmy Mays, Oklahoma Hospitality Foundation Board Member and the Hirst Hospitality Awards Committee Chair. “As a former scholarship recipient myself, it is really satisfying to be able to provide these kinds of opportunities and see the process come full circle.”
This past year, the Oklahoma Hospitality Foundation awarded $30,000 in scholarships to 12 students enrolled in either Oklahoma State University’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program in Stillwater or Oklahoma State University’s Institute of Technology Culinary Arts program in Okmulgee.
Katie Barnes, an OSUIT Culinary Arts Senior, said receiving this scholarship ensured she would be able to complete her education.
“I’m set to graduate from the OSUIT Culinary Arts program this December, but without this scholarship, I would not have been able to graduate,” Barnes said. “So, I’m very thankful for this generous scholarship and for the opportunities and connections I have made from the experience”
The program, emceed by The Oklahoman’s Dave Cathey, highlighted father-daughter duo Ed and Mia Mascarin, respected 32 Winds vintners from Healdsburg, CA, as the featured guest of the awards dinner.
Partners included Auto-Chlor System; Bryan Close; Ben E. Keith Foods Company; Dr. Pepper; Heartland; Oklahoma City Golf & Country Club; Premium Brands; Thirst Wine Merchants; ECOLAB; Shake Rattle & Roll; Oklahoma Natural Gas; 110 Events; Coca-Cola; McGregor Insurance Group; Republic National Distributing Company; and Southern Glazer’s of Oklahoma. In-Kind supporters are Premium Brands; Handcrafted-Dynamic Brands; Buthion Fine Food & Wine Shop; Southern Glazer’s; Artisan Fine Wine & Spirits; Republic National Distributing Company; Revolution Syndicat; Thirst Wine Merchants and Armada Distributing.
Founded in 1933, the Oklahoma Restaurant Association is the trade association of restaurants and foodservice operations, the state's largest private industry employer. Representing more than 4,000 restaurants and members, the ORA actively monitors legislation and regulatory agencies; helps foodservice management develop and strengthen business; and develops the membership to do together for the industry what cannot be done individually.
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