Photos courtesy Nevada Restaurant Association. NvRA Board

The Nevada Restaurant Association presented the Culinary Excellence Awards on December 14, 2017 during the 35th Annual Meeting of the Members. The annual event honors the best and brightest in the industry, who were selected based on merit in such areas as reliability, teamwork, leadership, contributions of knowledge and time to the community and dedication to the restaurant industry. This year’s ceremony was held at Wynn Las Vegas. The elegant room was filled with the who’s who from the restaurant industry that contribute to making Nevada the premier culinary destination.  

NvRA’s newest board members: L to R- Bhushan Arolkar – Urban Turban, Anton Novak – Rounds Bakery, Stewart Patchefsky – Aria Resort and Casino and Linda Brookins – Caesar’s Entertainment Corporation.

The Honorable Lorraine Hunt-Bono, former 32nd Lieutenant Governor of the State of Nevada, and the founding mother of the Restaurant Association, served as emcee for the evening. Awards were presented by NvRA chairman Jeff Trent in five categories: Drink Specialist of the Year, Culinarian of the Year, Vendor/Supplier of the Year, Restaurateur of the Year and Outstanding New Restaurant. In each category, winners are chosen based on set criteria, including exemplary dedication and skill to the craft, excellent teamwork and leadership and community service involvement. Candidates were nominated by a group of noted industry professionals in six award categories, and the winners were voted on by the Association’s Board of Directors.

“The nominees and winners exemplify the Nevada Restaurant Association’s mission to promote, protect and educate our state’s growing restaurant industry,” said Katherine Jacobi, president and CEO of the Association. “It is an honor to recognize these individuals for everything they do and their culinary and community achievements,” added Jeff Trent, Chairman of the Board.

Drew Levinson of Breakthru Beverage Group was awarded Drink Specialist of the Year, Chris Johns of South Point Hotel & Casino was named Culinarian of the Year, Mike Orlovich of Get  Fresh was awarded Vendor/Supplier of the Year, SUGARCANE Raw Bar Grill was awarded Outstanding New Restaurant and Richard Femenella of the Charlie Palmer Group was named Restaurateur of the Year. 

Gold sponsors of the event were Lipsmacking Foodie Tours and FRSCO Corporation. The event was also sponsored by Wegener Insurance, Badger Insurance, Herringbone Las Vegas and Better My POS.

Following is a list of nominees by category:

Drink Specialist of the Year

Drew Levinson, Breakthru Beverage Group*

Francesco Lafranconi, Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits of America

Tori Bender, The Golden Tiki

Culinarian of the Year

Geno Bernardo, Herringbone

Chris Johns, South Point Hotel & Casino*

Brian Howard, Sparrow + Wolf

Vendor/Supplier of the Year

Supreme Lobster & Seafood Company

Pacific Produce

Get Fresh*

Restaurateur of the Year

Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt, Marche Bacchus

John Simmons, Firefly Tapas Kitchen & Bar

Richard Femenella, Charlie Palmer Group*

Outstanding New Restaurant

Sparrow + Wolf


SUGARCANE Raw Bar Grill*

* Category winner