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NJ Restaurant & Hospitality Association (NJRHA) Announces Industry Award Recipients

Each year, NJRHA leaders vote on who is considered to be the best representative of the Garden State’s restaurant and hospitality industry — those who have succeeded in business and beyond. This year’s recipients are more diverse than ever and comprised of: a married couple who built a restaurant empire; a beloved family wine merchant; an immigrant franchisee owner who overcame amazing odds, a Yale-grad chef with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry; and two gifted chefs from JBJ Soul Kitchen, a program of the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. Each will be honored at the 2019 NJRHA Gala Awards, on December 2 at The Ryland Inn in Whitehouse Station.

This year’s winners are:

  • Restaurateur of the Year Award – Chester (Chip) & Cheryl Grabowski (Harvest Restaurant Group)
  • Deborah Dowdell Lifetime Achievement Award – Chef Craig Shelton
  • Gold Plate Award – Mark Metzger (Opici Family Distributing)
  • Gold Plate Award – Adenah Bayoh (Adenah Bayoh & Companies)
  • Hospitality Award – JBJ Soul Kitchen – Wendy Escobedo & Joshua Wiggins

“This eclectic group of winners represent our industry’s rich environment and each of them also give back ten-fold to their communities – a true representative of NJ’s hospitality industry,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the NJRHA.

The Annual Awards Gala is a formal event created to honor the winners and celebrate the restaurant and hospitality industry and hosts 250 people. For more information on the awards or the recipients, please contact Shah Perry, Events & Communications Manager at (609) 599-3316 or

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