Share Our Strength presents chefs, owners and operators with leadership awards

Share Our Strength presents chefs, owners and operators with leadership awards

Food & Drink

Share Our Strength presents chefs, owners and operators with leadership awards


Share Our Strength logoShare Our Strength®, theleading non-profit organization ending childhood hunger in America, announced its 2010 Leadership Awards during its annual Conference of Leaders, in Washington, D.C. The awards recognize community volunteers, companies, and corporate executives who have made a significant impact on the nonprofit’s work to end childhood hunger in the United States. Thirteen of this year’s 21 recipients were members of the foodservice industry: 

Stephan Pyles, Stephan Pyles Restaurant, Samar by Stephan Pyles, Dallas, Texas: 2010 Share Our Strength’s A Tasteful Pursuit® Leadership Award. Pyles has supported Share Our Strength for more than 20 years, first as a chef participating in and then leading Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® events in Dallas and, for the past five years, leading Share Our Strength’s A Tasteful Pursuit, a high-end national touring dinner series that features some of the country’s most renowned chefs. Pyles has a long record of speaking out about child hunger, and supports his words with action: in addition to his event leadership, Pyles routinely pulls in substantial funds by donating coveted auction items that command high bids at these events.

Diana Hovey, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Corner Bakery Cafe, Dallas, Texas: 2010 Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out® Leadership Award. Since the Great American Dine Out’s inception in 2007, Hovey has tirelessly spread the word across the industry, brought many influential people to the cause and pushed participating restaurants to come up with ever-more innovative ideas for raising funds and sharing best practices. She has chaired the Great American Dine Out’s Marketing Advisory Board for the past three years, and this year, led Corner Bakery Cafe’s marketing efforts to far exceed its own fundraising goal.

Marc Buehler, CEO, Kona Grill, Scottsdale, Ariz.: 2010 Share Our Strength’s Fundraising Innovation Leadership Award. Last year, Buehler introduced a concept that changed the face, direction and potential for the Great American Dine Out. The idea — a bounceback coupon that provides discounts on return visits to the restaurant in exchange for in-store donations or purchases of Great American Dine Out menu items— increased the restaurant’s business as well as the donations made to Share Our Strength. The coupon became the most popular and powerful promotional tool for restaurants participating in the Great American Dine Out this year, and helped double (in some cases, triple) the funds that many restaurant brands donated.

Ray Blanchette, CEO, Ignite Restaurant Group (Joe’s Crab Shack, Brick Tavern & Tap), Houston, Texas: 2010 Share Our Strength’s Advocate of the Year. Blanchette claims he has never been a “cheerleader” before, but his endless cheerleading for Share Our Strength’s cause says otherwise. He has led the Great American Dine Out’s Advisory Board for the past two years, participated in the program since its beginning in 2008, and has convinced countless new brands to join the cause with his passion and belief in what he calls “the art of the possible.” Despite leading his company to raising more than $500,000 through the Great American Dine Out over the past three years (more than any other participating restaurant brand, regardless of size), Blanchette continues to ask what more he and his company can do to help Share Our Strength end childhood hunger in America by 2015.

Tim Cipriano, Executive Director, New Haven Public Schools, New Haven, Conn.: 2010 Share Our Strength’s Advocate of the Year. Cipriano embodies the word, “advocate.” He says, “Everything I do, I do for the kids,” and he delivers. His day job, running one of the most progressive school dining services in the country, is setting a strong example for how school districts serving lots of low-income kids can successfully put “real food” back into their menus and provide more at-risk kids with nutritious food at school. A long-time Share Our Strength supporter, Cipriano co-chairs Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation® in New Haven, teaches Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters courses, and shines at leveraging his relationships with volunteers, sponsors, fellow chefs, celebrities and this past year, the Obama Administration to help raise awareness of child hunger in America and Share Our Strength’s work to end it.

Bryan Voltaggio, Chef-Owner, Volt, Frederick, Md.:  2010 Share Our Strength’s Chef/Restaurateur of the Year. Voltaggio acknowledged that he and his brother Michael were both nominated for this award. “You [Share Our Strength] got us competing together for something good,” he said as he accepted the award. “I was inspired by [Maryland] Governor O’Malley who said he wanted Maryland to be the first state to end childhood hunger. I decided that if I was moving back to my hometown [of Frederick], I needed to do this.” Bryan hosted a new Share Our Strength’s A Tasteful Pursuit® at Volt where he and Michael cooked with their mom and raised $100,000 to support Share Our Strength’s work in Maryland. Bryan has leveraged his many connections to bring individuals and companies to Share Our Strength’s cause, has spoken often, passionately and effectively on behalf of the organization and its goal to end childhood hunger in America, and was among hundreds of dedicated chefs who answered Share Our Strength’s call to join First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools initiative.

Jody Adams, Rialto Restaurant, Cambridge, Mass.:  2010 Share Our Strength’s Humanitarian of the Year. Adams has been a dedicated supporter of Share Our Strength from the organization’s start 26 years ago. “I was in a business where people never worried about where their next snack would come from, let alone their next meal, she says. “I needed to do more.” And she has: Adams has cooked for countless Share Our Strength fundraising dinners, supports her local food bank, participated in Haiti relief efforts, always donates time and talent to Share Our Strength auctions at fundraising events, is a strong role model of community service to young chefs, and even entered a sandwich charity competition among chefs on behalf of Share Our Strength. Adams takes—and makes–every opportunity to spread awareness of child hunger in America, and comes up with creative ways to raise money to help end it.

David Coder, Business Review/Development Manager, Sysco Foods, Denver, Colo.:  2010 Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters™ Leadership Award. Coder, a fine-dining chef for 12 years before joining Sysco, got his first taste of Share Our Strength 10 years ago as a chef-volunteer for Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation®; he then became a volunteer chef-instructor for Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline) and has been teaching families how to prepare healthy affordable meals ever since. Coder serves on the Colorado Cooking Matters’ Board of Advisors, has engaged his employer and his wife in Cooking Matters, and was recognized as the 2010 Special Event Volunteer of the Year for Cooking Matters Colorado.

Share Our Strength’s 2010 State Restaurant Association Leadership Awards

    New this year, the State Restaurant Association Leadership Awards are sponsored by the National Restaurant Association, a national sponsor of Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out®. They recognize leadership in two categories: 1) restaurant recruitment for the Great American Dine Out and 2) innovative practices to promote the Great American Dine Out.

    Deborah Dowdell, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, Trenton, accepted the State Restaurant Association Leadership Award for Restaurant Recruitment. The association used mail, fax, e-mail, print and radio advertising to recruit member restaurants to the Great American Dine Out this year.

    Matt Smiley, chairman of the Iowa Restaurant Association, Des Moines, accepted the State Restaurant Association Leadership Award for Innovative Practices. For the second consecutive year, the association engaged Iowa’s Governor to declare September “Iowa Restaurant Industry Month” in recognition of the industry’s philanthropic efforts, particularly the Great American Dine Out. The declaration helped raise awareness of childhood hunger all across the state, and helped drive consumer participation as well as restaurant recruitment.

    Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters Hall of Fame.

    These awards are presented to outstanding volunteers who have instructed at least 15 Cooking Matters class series. Cooking Matters (formerly Operation Frontline) is a program that teaches low-income kids and families how to cook delicious meals that are both healthy and affordable. 

    Vicki Connell, Associate Professor, Culinary Program, Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester, N.H. Since 1985, Connell has written and taught curricula for the university’s Pastry Arts program. She has been involved with many facets of the pastry and culinary industry, but is most proud of her work with the youth of greater Manchester through Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, where she has served as a Cooking Matters volunteer since the program began in July 2000. She has spread the word about Cooking Matters by bringing her culinary students into the classroom to help teach the courses and to learn how a chef can make a positive change in the community.

    Michele Morris, Chef-Owner, Cooking with Michele®, Denver, Colo. Morris started volunteering with Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, Colorado in 2009. Over the past 1-1/2 years, she has served the program as a chef instructor, shopper and most recently as a member of the Board of Advisors. In addition to running her own business offering private cooking lessons for adults and children, Morris writes the monthly online food column for Colorado Homes & Lifestyles, contributes to numerous other publications, and publishes a food blog that is followed in more than 130 countries. She also works with Slow Food’s Seed to Table school gardens program in the Denver Public Schools, cooking with student gardeners, demonstrating at youth farmers’ markets, and teaching cooking to children.

    Dennis Taylor, Supervisor/Cook, Green Gables Country Club, Denver, Colo. Taylor started his culinary journey taking classes at the local career center where he grew up, then continued his culinary education at Johnson and Wales University’s Denver campus. While there, he found Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters Colorado. Since then he has been recognized as Cooking Matters Student of the Year and a Share Our Strength’s Cutting Edge Scholarship winner, sponsored by Zwilling J.A. Henckels. Taylor has worked in some of Denver’s finest country clubs and award-winning restaurants including the Denver Country Club and Frank Bonanno’s restaurants Mizuna and Osteria Marco. He has also has been featured in Better Homes and Garden magazine.


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