'The Academy Awards of Foodservice' — The IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards 2017

IFMA'S Gold & Silver Plate Awards

As the Oscars are for the film industry and as the James Beard Awards are for culinary, the Gold & Silver Plate Awards are the academy awards of foodservice. The celebration, which honors the nation's most prestigious operator talent, is hosted by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) every year in Chicago.

The 63rd Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards night was held on May 20th at Revel Fulton Market and highlighted eight Silver Plate Award winners, all from different foodservice categories. All of which were chosen through a painstaking, thorough jury process of the most innovative foodservice icons of the industry. From that elite group, one winner is honored with the Gold Plate Award.

The Class of 2017: Silver Plate Winners

This year's winners within eight different categories, were all nominated by the industry's leading companies. From those candidates, the Gold Plate Winner was voted on through a secret ballot by the previous Silver Plate Award winners, national trade press editors, and a group of foodservice experts.  

The Class of 2017 Silver Plate Award Winners include:

  • Independent Restaurants/Multi-Concept: Wolfgang Puck, chef and owner, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group (nominated by Nestlé Professional)
  • Chain Full Service: G.J. Hart, executive chairman and CEO, California Pizza Kitchen (nominated by Wayne Farms)
  • Chain Limited Service: Chris Newcomb, co-founder and president & CEO, Newk’s Eatery (nominated by Wenner Bakery)
  • Health Care: Patti Oliver, director of nutrition, UCLA Health (nominated by Hobart Corporation & Basic American Foods)
  • Elementary & Secondary Schools: Betti Wiggins, executive director, Office of School Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools (nominated by Schwan’s Food Service)
  • Colleges & Universities: Ted Faulkner, director of dining services, Virginia Tech (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Business & Industry/Foodservice Management: Jeff Metz, president & CEO, Metz Culinary Management (nominated by Basic American Foods)
  • Retail & Specialty Foodservice: Chris Gheysens, president & CEO, Wawa Inc. (nominated by Nestlé Professional)

Meet the 2017 Gold Plate Winner: Wolfgang Puck

"I'm really appreciative, and on behalf of all my partners, all my associates all the people out there who work so hard day in and day out, who make a big difference... Thank you! " said Wolfgang Puck, owner and chef of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, proudly as he received his award.

Puck has more than 40 years of experience in the foodservice industry. He began cooking at a young age by his mother's side, but it was his perseverance that helped him forge a culinary, and then, leadership career. Through his flagship restaurant, Spago, first opened in West Hollywood and now in Beverly Hills, Puck was able to propel his business to a whole new level by creating a friendly and inviting environment through his open kitchen. This then led to his continued success in the foodservice industry.

"When I built Spago, normally the chefs at the time are hidden somewhere in the kitchen. I said: 'Okay, I'm going to build a kitchen in the middle of the dinning room so I can see every guest and they can see me...'," said Wolfgang Puck. "Everybody used to come by, if it was John Collins, Billy Waldo, Michael Douglas, they used to come by and say hello and everything... So this is really a great thing!"

Puck's message to future operators and chefs at the 2017 Gold and Silver Plate Awards ceremony was very clear, "If you're passionate and you can dream... You can do it!"