Culinary Excellence Awards 

The Nevada Restaurant Association presented the Culinary Excellence Awards on December 10, 2018 during the 36th 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 the Aria Resort & Casino. The elegant room was filled with the who’s who from the restaurant industry that contribute to making Nevada the premier culinary destination. 

The Honorable Lorraine Hunt-Bono, 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 the CEO of FUN Jodi Harris (Sight and Sound). 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.

Tony Abou Ganim of Libertine Social was awarded Drink Specialist of the Year; Chef Leticia Nunez of Bacchanal Buffet and Chef Francisco “Paco” Cortes of El Dorado Cantina were named Culinarians of the Year; Anna Martinez of Ecolab was awarded Vendor/Supplier of the Year; Chef Todd Philbrook of Marie’s Gourmet Bakery was chosen Outstanding Pastry Chef; 7th and Carson was awarded Outstanding New Restaurant; and Chef Javier Chavez of Kitchen Table Squared and Kitchen Table was named Restaurateur of the Year. 

Gold Sponsors of the event were Dairy West and “powershift” by NV Energy. The event was also sponsored by Hash House a Go Go, Prudential Overall Supply, Duon Global Services, Carmine’s, Virgil’s BBQ, Sysco, Get Fresh, Ecolab, Heartland, Coco Taps, LipSmacking Foodie Tours and the NvRA app sponsored by VDO Mobile APPS.

Criteria and Nominees for Restaurant and Chef Awards:


Drink Specialist of the Year 

An individual who demonstrates excellence in cocktails, spirits wine and/or beer through a well-presented drink list and efforts to educate customers. The candidate consistently provides excellent personable, intuitive and responsive customer service and contributes to the industry.

Josef Letasi from SHIRAZ

Tony Abou Ganim from Libertine Social

David English from Other Mama


Culinarian of the Year 

A working chef in Nevada who has served as inspiration to other food professionals. The candidate leads and exceptional restaurant kitchen and demonstrates community involvement and advance the hospitality industry by sharing skills and knowledge.

Chef Francisco “Paco” Cortes of El Dorado Cantina

Chef Leticia Nunez of Bacchanal Buffet

Chef Jeffery Martell of Plaza Hotel & Casino

Vendor/Supplier of the Year 

A company that goes above and beyond to provide exceptional services or products to support the restaurant industry and the community.

Lorri Davidson from Southwest Gas 

Anna Martinez from Ecolab Las Vegas

Brea Chiodini from Celebration Boats


Outstanding Pastry Chef

A chef or baker who prepares desserts or pastries in a restaurant or retail bakery and who serves as a state standard bearer of excellence. The candidate demonstrates community involvement. 

Executive Pastry Chef Philbrook of Marie’s Gourmet Bakery

Executive Pastry Chef Stephen Sullivan of Westgate Resorts Las Vegas

Executive Pastry Chef Sara Steele of CHICA

Outstanding New Restaurant 

A restaurant opened in the calendar year before the award will be given that already displays excellence in food, beverage and service, and that is likely to make a significant impact in years to come.

7th & Carson

Salud Mexican Bistro & Tequileria

Meraki Greek


Restaurateur of the Year

An individual who operates an outstanding restaurant business, is a role model, demonstrates community involvement, and advances the industry as a whole.

Chef Khai Vu-District One/Mordeo Las Vegas /Le Pho

Chef Scott Conant-SC Restaurants 

Chef Javier Chavez-Kitchen Table Squared and Kitchen Table

By Las Vegas’s standards, these treasures may seem small, what they represent, is very large. Cooking this good, with amazing cocktail and wine pairing, was unheard of four years ago outside of Las Vegas Strip hotels. By opening their doors, these restaurant operators announced that they are here to stay as—the gastronomic capitals of the Western world—have arrived in our backyard. Eating out in Las Vegas will never be the same, and we have Locals to thank.