'The Oscars of Foodservice' — The IFMA Gold & Silver Plate Awards 2016

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 62nd Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards night was held on May 21 at Revel Fulton Market and highlighted nine Silver Plate Award winners, all from different foodservice categories and chosen through a painstaking, thorough jury process of the most innovative and history-making icons of the industry. From that elite group, one winner is honored with the Gold Plate Award.

"The Silver Plate Award is the pinnacle. It is absolutely the top-of-the-segment award, and the difference is the Silver Plate is an individual award," IFMA President and CEO Larry Oberkfell said. "What we try to do is find the individuals [who] really have changed the business...in the company they work for, but also in the work that they do in their communities."

The Class of 2016: Silver Plate Winners

This year highlighted winners from nine different categories, all nominated by industry leading companies. From those candidates, the Gold Plate Winner was voted on through a secret ballot by previous Silver Plate Award winners, national trade press editors, and foodservice experts.  

The Class of 2016 Silver Plate Award Winners include:

  • Business & Industry/Foodservice Management: Mike Barclay, president, Southern Foodservice Management, Inc. 
  • Chain Full Service: Stephen Carley, CEO, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
  • Chain Limited Service: Charlie Morrison, president and CEO, Wingstop, Inc. 
  • Colleges & Universities: Rafi Taherian, associate vice president, Yale Hospitality, Yale University
  • Elementary & Secondary Schools: Jeff Denton, director of Child Nutrition Programs, Ponca City Public Schools
  • Healthcare: Diane Imrie, director of Nutrition Services, University of Vermont Medical Center
  • Independent Restaurants: Thom Sehnert, founder/owner & president, Annie Gunn's and The Smokehouse Market
  • Hotels & Lodging: Wolfgang Lindlbauer, chief discipline leader, Global Operations, Marriott International
  • Specialty Foodservice: Rick Abramson, executive vice president & chief operating officer, Delaware North Companies 
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Meet the 2016 Gold Plate Winner: Rafi Taherian

"I love this industry, and tonight, this industry showed me they love me back," Rafi Taherian, associate vice president of Yale Hospitality, said as he received his award, shocked and humbled. 

The fact he apologized for not having a speech prepared speaks volumes on his character as a man who does not seek recognition, and who instead focuses on working diligently to serve others. He has more than 25 years of progressive, hospitality leadership under his belt. At Yale University, through his experienced guidance and thoughtful strategies, he and his team deliver more than 14,000 meals per day at 31 foodservice operations. Taherian owes his success to the mentorship he received as he moved up through the ranks, and with this honor, he hopes he can pay back by mentoring the future.

"You know, in our industry, we need people [who] help others as they come up, the very same way I was helped. The very same was I was supported throughout my career. To make sure more people...have a chance," he said.