The Torch Award
Sunday, March 3, 2:00 PM, Center Stage
The word Torch symbolizes many things including illumination, energy, joy, victory, enlightenment, hope and education. The Torch Award, presented by The Food Shows, was created to honor outstanding chefs who embody all those qualities and characteristics.These chefs have been chosen because of:
- The purity of their knowledge
- The clarity of their vision
- The brilliance of their careers.
Each has provided outstanding contributions to our industry. Please join us on March 3 as we present the 2019 Torch Award.
Past Torch Award Recipients
Geoffrey Zakarian American Iron Chef, Restaurateur, Television Personality, and Author
2018 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York Honoree
Throughout a career spanning 30 years, Geoffrey Zakarian has made his mark as a chef restaurateur known for his sophisticated taste and signature style. An accomplished chef, host and culinary consultant, Zakarian has presided over some of the country’s top kitchens, traveling the world for new inspiration to marry with his classical training and techniques in a lifelong effort to deliver paramount hospitality experiences.
Zakarian's rise to culinary prominence began at Le Cirque, where he first worked in a professional kitchen. In five years, he worked his way up from Pastry Sous to Chef to Chef de Cuisine under Chef Alain Sailhac. During these formative years, Zakarian staged at places such as Arpège and Au Quai des Ormes in Paris, Auberge de l'Ill in Alsace, The Dorchester in London, Le Chantecler with Jacques Maximin in Nice, and Pierre Orsay in Lyon. In 1987, Zakarian took his first turn as Executive Chef at the legendary 21Club. In 1988, he became the Executive Chef of 44 at the Royalton Hotel, before opening the Blue Door at the Delano Hotel in Miami in 1995. In 1997, Zakarian became Executive Chef of Patroon.
In 2001, Zakarian opened his first restaurant, Town, to which he brought his culinary and decorative vision to life. Both Patroon and Town were awarded Three Stars from The New York Times. Zakarian next opened Country, a restaurant that paired his passion for food and wine with his innate sense of hospitality, grace and old world elegance. Country was awarded a Michelin Star along with Three Stars from The New York Times. In 2007, Zakarian signed on to conceptualize and oversee the entire food and beverage program at The Water Club at Borgata, in Atlantic City.
Michelle Bernstein, Chef and Owner, Crumb on Parchment and Michelle Bernstein Catering
2017 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show Honoree
Chef Michelle Bernstein, a Miami native of Jewish and Latin descent, has dazzled diners and critics alike with her sublime cuisine and a personality as bright and vibrant as the Florida sun. “My food isn’t heavy handed or unnecessarily complicated,” says Bernstein, a James Beard Award winner (Best Chef South 2008) and author of Cuisine a Latina (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2008). “You don’t need heavy handed technique and over the top presentations to make a dish work. It’s about amazing ingredients, layered flavors and simplicity. My style of cooking is inspired by my own food memories and it’s the simple, soulful cooking that I remember from my travels. I cook the food I love and I think that love translates to the diners.”
Curtis Stone, Chef and Owner, Maude & Gwen
2017 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo Honoree
Along with his successful career as chef, restaurateur, media personality, businessman, and New York Times best-selling author, Curtis' strong commitment to giving back, offering second chances to individuals by hiring through Chrysalis and his #Commit2One philosophy made him the obvious choice to be the 2017 Torch Award recipient.
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and founder of Shake Shack
2017 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of NY Honoree
Danny is the CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group and the founder of Shake Shack. Union Square Hospitality Group includes Union Square Cafe, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, Jazz Standard, The Modern, Maialino, Untitled, North End Grill, Marta, Porchlight, Union Square Events, and Hospitality Quotient, a learning and consulting business. Danny, his restaurants and chefs have earned an unprecedented 28 James Beard Awards, and in 2015, Danny was named to the TIME 100 list of the Most Influential People in the World. Danny’s first business book, Setting the Table (HarperCollins, 2006), a New York Times bestseller, examines the power of hospitality in restaurants, business and life.
Melissa Kelly, Executive Chef and Proprietor, Primo
2016 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show Honoree
Melissa Kelly is the Executive Chef and proprietor of Primo, which originated in Maine and has expanded to Orlando, FL and Tucson, Arizona, and is based on the farm to table philosophy. She is the 2013 James Beard Foundation Award winner of the American Express Best Chef: Northeast Award. She also received this award in 1999, making her the first 2-time winner of the same award.
Thomas Keller, Chef and Proprietor, The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group
2016 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo Honoree
Thomas Keller is the chef and proprietor of The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, which includes The French Laundry and Per Se, both of which hold three-star Michelin ratings and have been hailed two of the finest restaurants in the world. He has also opened Bouchon, Bar Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, and Ad Hoc + Addendum, and has sold more than one million copies of his books “Ad Hoc at Home”, “Bouchon Bakery”, “The French Laundry”, “Bouchon”, and “Under Pressure”.
Drew Nieporent, Owner, Myriad Restaurant Group
2016 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York Honoree
Drew Nieporent, one of America's most respected restaurateurs, is the founder and inspiration behind the Myriad Restaurant Group, which operates Tribeca Grill, Nobu New York, Nobu Fifty Seven, Nobu London, Nobu Next Door, Bâtard, the Acela Club at Citi Field (home of the NY Mets), Daily Burger at Madison Square Garden, and Crush Wine & Spirits. Over the last 30 years, Myriad has opened and operated over 36 restaurants around the world including San Francisco, Seattle, Louisville, Martha’s Vineyard, Boca Raton, London, and Moscow.
Norman Van Aken, Chef-Owner NORMAN'S at the Ritz Carlton, Grande Lakes
2015 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show Honoree
Norman Van Aken, chef-owner of NORMAN'S in Orlando and the founding father of New World Cuisine, is the only Floridian on the James Beard list of Who's Who in American Food and Beverage, as well as an internationally acclaimed author.
Susan Feniger, Co-Chef-Owner, Border Grill Restaurants & Truck
2015 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo Honoree
Susan Feniger is a celebrated chef, author, and entrepreneur. Her professional collaboration with Mary Sue Milliken (CITY, Ciudad, Too Hot Tamales) has led to the groundbreaking Border Grill empire, with locations in Santa Monica, Downtown LA, LAX Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay, and a second outpost in Las Vegas at The Forum Shops opened in October 2014. In 2013, Susan welcomed her new solo venture, the beloved Mud Hen Tavern in Hollywood.
Mary Sue Milliken, Co-Chef-Owner, Border Grill Restaurants & Truck
2015 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo Honoree
A pioneer of world cuisine since the creation of City Café and CITY Restaurant in Los Angeles in the 1980s, Mary Sue is most notably recognized as a preeminent ambassador of modern Mexican cuisine with her Border Grill Restaurants (Santa Monica, Downtown Los Angeles, Las Vegas) and Truck. In 2013, she and longtime business partner, Susan Feniger, opened a new location in the Los Angeles Airport’s Tom Bradley International Terminal and in October 2014 welcomed a second Las Vegas outpost at The Forum Shops.