Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Recognizes Monroe County Hospitality Stars

DUCK KEY – Last week, hundreds from across the regional hospitality industry gathered at Hawks Cay Resort for the inaugural Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) ROSE Awards ceremony to recognize superstars from across Monroe County’s hospitality community.

The ROSE (Recognition of Service Excellence) Awards honor frontline hospitality team members across the region. This year’s event boasted more than 50 nominees from 17 different businesses, and more than 25 outstanding team members were honored with the coveted ROSE Award. From administrative assistants to chefs, housekeeping to transportation, and front desk staff to valet and bellmen, every single position in hospitality is critical to the success of the business in achieving superior guest experiences. The winners each received their award, the coveted ROSE Award pin, and recognition from industry peers and leadership. Middle managers were also recognized for their commitment and hard work throughout the ceremony. Lubos Sarissky from Casa Marina Resort took home the President’s Award, and hospitality icon Sheldon Suga was surprised with the FRLA Lifetime Achievement Award following his recent retirement from Hawks Cay Resort after more than 50 years in various leadership positions in hospitality in the U.S. and around the world.

“It was such an honor to pay tribute to our frontline team members at the beautiful Hawks Cay Resort for this sold-out event,” said Lynne Hernandez, Regional Director for FRLA and the event’s organizer. “We had a wonderful time celebrating and listening to the most inspiring stories of our nominees and winners. Congratulations to all who were recognized, and we look forward to building on this year’s event and returning next year.”

“We are so proud to bring the ROSE Awards to Monroe County for the first time to recognize these amazing hospitality champions,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “For these nominees and winners to serve with such excellence is a testament to their determination and professionalism and shows that they truly love what they do. Ours is the best industry in the state, and the Monroe County ROSE Awards is a wonderful opportunity to shine the light on these outstanding individuals.”

 The 2023 Monroe ROSE Award winners are:

President’s Award: Lubos Sarissky, Casa Marina Resort

Above and Beyond: Jean Antoine, Ocean Reef Club

Administrative Assistant/Support: Judy Burrel, Irish Kevin’s

Bartender / Mixologist – Hotel: Ailton Lopez, Islamorada Resort Collection

Bartender / Mixologist – Restaurant: Michelle Meier, Half Shell Raw Bar

Behind the Scenes: Jayme Wharram, Ocean Reef Club

Beyond the Call of Duty: Sandy Cottrell, Half Shell Raw Bar

Beyond the Call of Duty: Ernsy Simon, Ocean Reef Club

Beyond the Call of Duty: Stephison Foster, Hawks Cay Resort

Culinary Service – Chef / Cook: Juan Gonzalez, Benihana Key West

Customer Service – Airport, Ground, & Water: Captain Mark King, Sole’ Watersports

Customer Service – Attraction/Tourism Business: Ester Porhun, Hawks Cay Resort

Customer Service – Concierge, Recreation, Spa: Edwin “Rolando” Barrera, Little Palm Island Resort

Food & Beverage – Support: Barbara Chavez, Reefhouse Resort & Marina Key Largo

Guest Service – Front Desk, Full-Service Hotel: Patrick Anello, Casa Marina Resort

Guest Service – Front Desk, Select Service Hotel: Marilyn Taylor, La Siesta

Guest Service – Housekeeping, Full-Service Hotel: Gina Luijean, Ocean Reef Club

Guest Service – Housekeeping, Select Service Hotel: Ophelia Brown, Dewey House & La Mer

Guest Service – Maintenance / Engineer: Kendrick Lyons, Hyatt Centric Key West

Guest Service – Valet / Bell Attendant: Jerome Simpson, Ocean Reef Club

Manager Moment – Yadira Perez Gonzalez, Courtyard Faro Blanco Marathon

Manager Moment – Gwen Jeffries, Isla Bella Beach Resort

Server – Restaurant, Independent: Catherine Yager, La Trattoria

Server – Hotel Select Service: Linda Kirk, Little Palm Island Resort

Server – Hotel Full Service: Elizabeth “Liz” Saunders, Hawks Cay Resort

FRLA Lifetime Achievement Award: Sheldon Suga, formerly Hawks Cay Resort


About FRLA: The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) is Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality industry trade association. Founded in 1946 as the Florida Restaurant Association, FRLA merged with the Florida Hotel and Motel Association in 2006. FRLA’s more than 10,000 members include independent hoteliers and restaurateurs, household name franchises, theme parks and suppliers. The association’s mission is to protect, educate and promote Florida’s nearly $112 billion hospitality industry which represents 1.5 million employees. Dedicated to safeguarding the needs of the membership, FRLA provides legislative advocacy to ensure the voices of its members are heard and their interests are protected. The association offers regulatory compliance and food safety training through Safe Staff® and FRLA’s subsidiary, RCS Training. The FRLA Educational Foundation provides industry-developed, career-building high school programs throughout the state.