FRLA Honors First Responders and Celebrates Florida’s Hospitality Industry Stars at Awards Ceremony

(Orlando, Fla.) – The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) honored local first responders who risked their lives to protect and serve during the Pulse tragedy, and recognized the restaurants, employees and guests statewide who supported Dine Out for Orlando United and raised more than $800,000 for the OneOrlando Fund. Speakers at the Hospitality Stars of the Industry Installation and Awards Gala included: Florida Governor Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Chef Emeril Lagasse. State Senator Aaron Bean served as the emcee for the evening.

During the event, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, on Wednesday, September 28, 2016, FRLA celebrated the stars of Florida’s hospitality industry. FRLA announced its 2017 Executive Committee and unveiled its 2016 Hall of Fame along with other industry award winners. A live auction at the conclusion of the event raised $9,800 for the FRLA Educational Foundation.

Don Fox, Chief Executive Officer for Firehouse of America, LLC, was named FRLA’s 2017 Chairman of the Board. Fox will preside over the FRLA, one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing more than 10,000 members in the hospitality industry.

FRLA congratulates its newly elected executive board and Hall of Fame award winners.


2017 FRLA Executive Committee:
Don Fox Chairman Firehouse of America, LLC, Jacksonville
Kevin Speidel Vice Chair Hilton Worldwide, Fort Lauderdale
Chau Nguyen Secretary-Treasurer Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, Orlando
Olivia Hoblit Director 2016-17 Seaside Amelia Inn, Fernandina Beach
Alan Palmieri Director 2017-18 Marlow’s Tavern, Orlando
Sheldon Suga Director 2017-18 Hawk’s Cay Resort, Duck Key
Lino Maldonado Immediate Past Chair Wyndham Vacation Rentals, Fort Walton Beach


In addition, Hall of Fame Awards were given to individuals who have attained career distinctions of the highest level and were recognized for distinguished service to their industry, community, charitable organizations and family. The 2016 Hall of Fame is as follows:

2016 Restaurateur of the Year: Manuel “Manny” Garcia III, Davgar Restaurants Inc., Orlando The Garcia family has been steeped in the food and restaurant industry for many years. Beginning with his Burger King franchise, the successful restaurateur went on to introduce a number of new dining concepts to Central Florida including Pebbles Restaurants, Harvey’s Bistro and Manuel’s on the 28th Restaurant, and more recently in The Villages, City Fire American Oven & Bar and a tavern called Honest John’s Whiskey and Provisions. Garcia will once again break new ground with the mid-December grand opening of Wahlburgers, a casual burger restaurant founded by brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg.

2016 Hotelier of the Year: Julian MacQueen, Innisfree Hotels, Pensacola Julian MacQueen’s hospitality career began five decades ago with a summer job as a busboy at a resort in Destin, Florida. He founded Innisfree Hotels in 1985, leaving a position as the Executive Vice President of Family Inns of America for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. Since then, his company has grown from a single-property operation to one of the largest hotel companies in the southern United States, with more than 2,500 rooms owned and managed, 1,300 employees and revenues of $125 million.

2016 Supplier of the Year: Island Oasis Island Oasis has been a loyal FRLA allied member, exhibitor and sponsor for more than 15 years. They are one of the longest standing sponsors at our annual NRA/FRLA Bob Leonard Golf Classic, graciously serving their finest drink selections for our members to sample. Island Oasis also sponsors and participates at several chapter golf tournaments and events around the state. Tim Burks, National Accounts and Regional Sales Manager – Florida / Gulf Coast serves on the Allied Member Council and accepted this award on behalf of Island Oasis.

At the event, FRLA also announced annual award categories to recognize exceptional service throughout the state: Restaurant General Manager of the Year, Hotel General Manager of the Year, Restaurant Employee of the Year, Hotel Employee of the Year and Chef of the Year. Nominees and winners were chosen by a panel of independent industry judges.

Restaurant General Manager of the Year

Jim Garris, General Manager, Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City *WINNER

Clayton Green, General Manager, Another Broken Egg Cafe, Sandestin

Lindsey Smith, Senior Restaurant Manager, Orlando World Center Marriott

Hotel General Manager of the Year

Eduardo Fernandez, General Manager, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach *WINNER – TIE

Rey Martinez, Resort Manager, Hyatt Coconut Plantation Resort, Bonita Springs

Tom Williamson, General Manager, Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral *WINNER – TIE

Restaurant Employee of the Year

Lenny Jacobs, Kitchen Manager, Another Broken Egg Cafe, Sandestin

Stacey Landis, Bartender, Applebee’s, Venice *WINNER – TIE

Miranda Steele, Chef’s Office Coordinator, Orlando World Center Marriott *WINNER – TIE

Hotel Employee of the Year

Maria Colon, Executive Assistant, Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando

Santiago Navarro, Assistant Front Office Manager, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach *WINNER

Juan Rivera, Banquet Captain, Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa

Chef of the Year

Geraldo Bayona, Corporate Chef, Columbia Restaurant, Ybor City *WINNER

Tuong (Hirano) Ly, District Head Chef, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, Altamonte Springs

James Routhier, Executive Banquet Chef, Orlando World Center Marriott

FRLA Educational Foundation Student of the Year

Tyler Chaffin, The Academy of Culinary Arts at Belleview High School, Ocala

Jose Murillo, Inlet Grove Community High School, Riviera Beach

Sofia Slimak, Mainland High School, Daytona Beach *WINNER