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  • 01 Apr 2014 4:36 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Georgia Magazine
    BY REBECCA LANG

    A unique pleasure of growing up in the land of Vidalia onions is seeing green sprouts exploding through the sandy soil in nearly all directions just as the weathers begins to warm. The famous sweet onions are a natural part of life and so well infused in many aspects that for some, no other onions exist. It's not uncommon for those who call Vidalia home to eat the onions raw like apples. From whole, crunchy bites to slow-cooked golden hues, Vidalias are a sweet reflection of Georgia on plates all over America.

    ...

    "One of the top culinary trends for 2014 is sourcing locally grown food. Vidalia onions are a Georgia grown product that not only tastes great, but supports local farmers and builds the community. More and more, consumers are becoming conscious of how local and sustainable products can have a beneficial impact," says Karen Bremer, executive director of the Atlanta-based Georgia Restaurant Association. 

    Read the full article here.
  • 27 Mar 2014 1:21 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Neighbornewspapers.com
    BY EVERETT CATTS 
    (UPDATED THURSDAY AT 5:30 P.M. WITH AMENDED QUOTES FROM KAREN BREMER)

    The general public may not have the complete picture when it comes to the state’s restaurant industry.

    That was the message from Georgia Restaurant Association Executive Director Karen I. Bremer, who spoke at the Buckhead Business Association’s breakfast meeting Thursday at City Club of Buckhead.

    “My organization’s primary responsibility is advocacy of the business. … It’s my responsibility to make sure our elected officials understand the depth and breadth of our industry,” she said. “They’re usually on the same wavelength as restaurants because they come from small businesses. When you look at a large corporation like Chick-fil-A, it’s a large company but each unit is individually owned and they have needs.

    “I think a lot of people have a different perception of the reality of owning a restaurant business. When an onerous piece of legislation gets passed, it’s my job to reach out to those restaurant owners and explain to them on how to comply with the new law. Not knowing about the law is never a good excuse.”

    Bremer, in her 40th year in the restaurant industry, has led the Buckhead-based restaurant group since August 2010. The former president of Peasant Restaurants Inc. and ex-owner of now-defunct downtown Atlanta eateries Daily’s and City Grill is a founding member of the nonprofit.

    She oversees an organization advocating for more than 16,000 businesses in Georgia providing more than 405,000 jobs with total sales of more than $16.5 billion annually. The restaurant industry is the second largest private employer in the state, behind agribusiness.

    “Our industry was one of the first in the nation to recover all of our jobs after the Great Recession,” Bremer said. “We recovered over a million jobs nationwide.

    “From 1997 to 2007, African-American ownership grew by 188 percent, Hispanic by 80 percent and Asian[-American] by 60 percent.”

    She said restaurants have struggled with some federal mandates.

    Regarding President Barack Obama’s push to increase the minimum wage, Bremer said, “Less than 5 percent of all restaurant and bar workers are making minimum wage in the United States. … Tipped restaurant employees are among the highest-paid employees in the establishment, regularly earning between $16 an hour for entry-level servers and $22 an hour for more experienced servers. No one is making $2.13 an hour. Every time menu prices increase servers get a raise as most people tip on a percentage basis.

    “I have been to several of these minimum wage protests. Most of the protests were by union organizers and union workers. I have yet to meet a restaurant worker protesting.”

    As for the Affordable Care Act, she said, “It has been a very tough challenge over the last few years as deadlines have been extended. I think the restaurants in that 50- to 100-employee range are the most vulnerable because things have been extended with-out clear rules regarding full-time worker hours and many other rules. The smaller restaurants do not have to comply and the larger groups have their plans in place.

    “I think the biggest challenges right now is staffing. The population shift going on in the country, I’m a Baby Boomer, the generation behind us is much smaller, so if anybody invests in the restaurant industry should invest in extended care because that’s where we may all be at some point. Regarding staffing, people say to me, ‘What’s the solution?’ We need more people who will join the industry.” The solutions will include more limited service restaurants, more self service restaurants and a much needed guest worker program.

    As for illegal immigration, Bremer said, “Our organization was the first one in the state to make a statement about the immigration issue. We do not support illegal immigration. The Georgia Restaurant Association supports comprehensive immigration reform, but only at the federal level, including increased border security, a workable employment verifica-tion system, a worker program and an earned path to permanent residence for certain undocumented immigrants. We support all of those who came to our country legally to better themselves and their families.

    “Another issue is rules and regulations. I had someone tell me the restaurant industry is the second most regulated industry behind the mining industry.”

    Bremer also said one misconception is the profits smaller restaurants such as a café serving breakfast and lunch make despite $1 million in annual revenue. According to her, after funds are spent on goods, labor, rent and utilities, credit card processing and administration, only about $100,000 is left over for profits and the owner’s wages.

    Business association President Brian McGuire said Bremer’s speech was educational.

    “I total think that having her here to talk about some of the misconceptions in the restaurant industry was good,” he said. “Beginning in high school I spent the five years employed as a waiter in restaurants. I’m glad she brought up the issues regarding the Affordable Care Act, minimum wage and illegal immigration and the effect they have on restaurants.”

    Information: visit www.garestaurants.org
  • 23 Mar 2014 1:39 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
    BY KATIE LESLIE AND J. SCOTT TRUBEY 

    The time for Underground Atlanta has come. Again.

    History repeated itself last week when Mayor Kasim Reed announced a new phase in the ailing shopping mall’s future: plans to rid the city of the responsibility – and cost undefined of Underground by buying out the management company and selling it to a developer.

    The news set off speculation about what will become of the multi-tiered facility. Some see a hotel. Some want office space. Others see student housing or maybe an arts campus.

    In a city that loves to dream big, there’s no shortage of ideas. And Reed wants to let the private sector – or maybe Georgia State University – turn a white elephant into a prize.

    ...

    For any redevelopment to succeed the area needs to feel safe and rundown buildings that surround Underground need renewal, said Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

    “Underground has to be part of a comprehensive plan that touches more than Underground property,” said Bremer, who formerly ran City Grill and Dailey’s restaurants downtown. Redevelopment projects in Savannah and Charleston, cities where locals and tourists gather downtown, are examples that Atlanta should emulate, she said.

    Read the full story here.
  • 10 Mar 2014 10:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    BY: JOHN MISHLER

    ROSWELL - The Taste of Atlanta food festival and the Georgia Restaurant Association have joined forces to put together EAT GA, the Edible Agriculture Tour. Throughout the year, the dining series will feature local, seasonal products and flavors at events in cities across the state. Up first, dinner at Table & Main on Tuesday, March 11. More here. [EaterWire]

    WESTSIDE - Wednesday, March 12 is Girl Scout Day, and to celebrate the occasion, Chocolate South is giving a free Scout bonbon to the first 20 active Girl Scouts - age 18 or younger and in uniform - who stop in. The first 10 former Girl Scouts to bring in their badge sash or a photo of themselves in uniform will recieve a free Scout bonbon and a cup of coffee. [EaterWire]

    BUCKHEAD - Newly-opened Big Sky Buckhead inaugurates Trivia Night this Wednesday. Prizes include SweetWater Brewing Company passes and appetizers from chef Hector Santiago's menu. [EaterWire]

    EAST ATLANTA- Temporarily shuttered last month while one of the owners recovered from surgery, Urban Cannibals will re-open tomorrow for lunch beginning at 11 a.m. Get all the details here. [EaterWire]
  • 07 Mar 2014 2:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Atlanta Business Chronicle
    Amy Wenk

    New dining event created
    A new statewide dining event is about to launch.

    Food festival Taste of Atlanta has partnered with the Georgia Restaurant Association on a new series called EAT GA, or the Edible Agriculture Tour Georgia.

    It is funded by a grant from the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown program.

    “EAT GA will bring together the men and women growing exceptional product and Georgia chefs and families who want to buy, cook and eat local produce,” Dale Gordon DeSena, Taste of Atlanta founder and president, said in an announcement. “We believe these grassroots dining events are a natural way to grow business across the state.”

    EAT GA will kick off March 11 with an Atlanta Community Food Bank Supper Club event at Roswell restaurant Table & Main.

    Events are also planned for Atlanta, Marietta, Athens, Savannah, St. Simons Island and Augusta. Proceeds from each event will benefit local food banks.
  • 07 Mar 2014 2:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Fresh Grown News, A program of the Georgia Department of Agriculture

    2014 Georgia Grown Executive Chefs

    Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black and Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) Executive Director Karen Bremer announced the 2014 Georgia Grown Executive Chefs. The four selected chefs were announced on Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 at the GRA’s Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception, held at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot from 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

    The four chefs for 2014 are Chef Gary Coltek of Kennesaw State University Culinary and Hospitality Services in Kennesaw, Chef Roberto Leoci of Leoci's Trattoria in Savannah, Chef Marc Taft of Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, and Virginia Willis of Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc. in Atlanta.

    “As demonstrated through the success of this program, Georgia Grown Executive Chefs create a greater awareness about the availability of the quality, local products that can be found on our state’s expanding culinary scene,” Black said. “This program is one of the many ways working with the Georgia Restaurant Association helps us promote and foster relationships between chefs and our farmers across the state.”
    As the program grows, it will create a pathway for consumers to find Georgia Grown products in their communities in order to support local, seasonal foods when dining out. It also aims to highlight and involve public school culinary education and school food nutrition in terms of increased opportunities for Georgia Grown products, training and recipe development. The chefs will participate in a spring and fall school event, an organized farm tour, at least one seasonal cooking clip with the Department and at least one Georgia Grown cooking event designated by Black.
  • 03 Mar 2014 3:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Restaurant Informer

    Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black and Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) Executive Director Karen Bremer recently announced the 2014 Georgia Grown Executive Chefs.

    The four chefs for 2014 are Chef Gary Coltek of Kennesaw State University Culinary and Hospitality Services in Kennesaw, Chef Roberto Leoci of Leoci’s Trattoria in Savannah, Chef Marc Taft of Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, and Virginia Willis of Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc. in Atlanta.

    These four distinguished chefs will join the current Georgia Grown Executive Chefs, including:
 Chef Holly Chute, Executive Chef, Georgia Governor’s Mansion; Chef Michael Deihl, CEC CCA AAC, Executive Chef, East Lake Golf Club ; Chef Kevin Gillespie, Owner, Gunshow; Chef Hilary White, Executive Chef, The Hil, A Restaurant at Serenbe; Chef Jennifer Hill Booker of Your Resident Gourmet, LLC in Atlanta ; Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene and Resurgens Hospitality in Atlanta; Chef Ahmad Nourzad of Affairs to Remember Catering in Atlanta ; and Chef David Snyder of Halyards, Tramici Restaurant and Halyards Catering in St. Simons .

    The Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program seeks to promote the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown campaign statewide. Now entering its third year, the program offers participating chefs a mark of honor and distinction, while increasing awareness for both restaurateurs and consumers about which local Georgia products are available for the cooking season.

    As the program grows, it will create a pathway for consumers to find Georgia Grown products in their communities in order to support local, seasonal foods when dining out. It also aims to highlight and involve public school culinary education and school food nutrition in terms of increased opportunities for Georgia Grown products, training and recipe development. The chefs will participate in a spring and fall school event, an organized farm tour, at least one seasonal cooking clip and at least one Georgia Grown cooking event.
  • 01 Mar 2014 4:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
    By: Jeremy Redmon

    Georgia’s business community is raising concerns about a pair of measures that would restrict who may get state driver’s licenses and how they may get them.

    This is at least the second time Georgia business groups have spoken out this week about controversial state legislation.

    Legislation that critics feared would let businesses discriminate against gays - by citing religious beliefs - appeared to founder this week after meeting opposition from the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot and the InterContinental Hotels Group.

    Now attracting scrutiny is Senate Resolution 1031, which proposes to amend the state constitution and make English Georgia’s official language. SR 1031 would also require that the state’s driver’s license tests be given only in English. The state now offers its road rules tests in 11 other languages.

    In issuing its statement about SR 1031, the Metro Atlanta Chamber said foreign investment and international trade have created hundreds of thousands of jobs in Georgia and pumped billions of dollars into the state’s economy.

    “Our members believe administering Georgia driver’s license exams in multiple languages is key to ensuring that international investors, students, diplomats, and other guests can safely understand and obey our traffic laws as they work and study in our state,” the chamber stated in response to questions about the measure from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Also pending in the state Legislature is Senate Bill 404, which would ban Georgia driver’s licenses for people who don’t have legal status in the U.S. but who have been granted “deferred action” for humanitarian reasons. Deferred Action lets people temporarily remain and work legally in the U.S. Among those who are eligible for this relief are children who were illegally brought to the U.S., parents with seriously ill children, battered spouses and other crime victims.

    The Georgia Restaurant Association said it is “critically important” for most deferred action recipients to get driver’s licenses.

    “We feel that this not only facilitates their ability to work, support and care for their families, but to serve the public interest in having trained, tested and insured drivers on the road,” the association said in response to questions from the AJC about the bill.

    SB 404 and SR 1031 did not make it on the Senate’s agenda for Monday, or Crossover Day, the deadline for bills to pass in at least one chamber. That has opponents claiming victory. But the chief sponsors are not giving up hope. Senate leaders could decide to add them later to Monday’s agenda or tack them onto other bills, they said.

    Sen. Bill Heath, a Republican from Bremen and SB 404’s chief sponsor, took aim at Washington, saying “it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide national security and seal our borders against invasion by undocumented aliens whose intentions in this land are unknown.”

    “While there are many unjustified federal programs, national security is not one of them and Georgia must step up to fill that gap when the federal government fails our citizens,” Heath said in a prepared statement by email.

    Critics are predicting Georgia will find itself in a legal thicket if the state enacts Heath’s bill. After instituting similar driver’s license bans, Arizona and Nebraska became embroiled in lawsuits brought by civil and immigrant rights groups. Both cases are still pending.

    It’s unclear precisely how many people SB 404 would affect in Georgia.
    But 10,882 people who have received deferred action through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have applied for Georgia driver’s licenses and state ID cards since 2012, according to the state Driver Services Department. The state agency wasn’t able to immediately say how many of them were approved.

    People on both sides of the debate should recognize those who have been granted deferred action are legally present in the U.S., said Michael Olivas, who teaches immigration law at the University of Houston.
    “It actually transforms their legal status from being unauthorized to being lawfully present,” said Olivas, a board member with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

    Sen. Don Balfour, R-Snellville, is sponsoring SR 1031. His proposed constitutional amendment would need a two-thirds vote in each chamber before it could be placed on the ballot for voter approval. State law already makes English Georgia’s official language, though the code permits government agencies to issue forms in other languages.

    “If it comes to the (Senate) floor, it will pass overwhelmingly,” Balfour predicted about his measure. “And if it goes before the people, 75 percent to 80 percent of the people will vote for it.”

    Hala Moddelmog, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, said her group has been speaking out in keeping with its agenda against bills “that threaten our reputation as a global hub for business.”

    “We have also worked each year against measures that do little to improve safety or security but send a negative message to the international business community,” Moddelmog said in a prepared statement. “We do so to protect the growing contribution global commerce means to our economy.”

    By the numbers
    425,000 -estimated number of immigrants who were living illegally in Georgia in 2010.

    *16,302 - people who have been granted deferred action through the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
    10,882 - people who have received deferred action through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and who have applied for Georgia driver’s licenses and state ID cards since 2012.
    *As of Dec. 31.
    Sources: Pew Hispanic Center, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Georgia Driver Services Department
  • 28 Feb 2014 3:17 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Restaurant Informer

    Atlanta Foodservice Expo LLC recently announced the 2014 Atlanta Foodservice Expo Advisory Council. The Show Management team has compiled a group consisting of 19 industry leaders to assist with the continued development of the event and ensure the needs of the local industry are well served at the show. The 2014 Advisory Council Members are:

    Frank Abbinanti, Area Executive Chef (Atlanta Region), Levy Restaurants/GWCC

    Paul Baldasaro, Chief Operating Officer, Buckhead Life Restaurant Group

    Archna Becker, President, Bhojanic

    Karen Bremer, Executive Director, Georgia Restaurant Association


    Alexander Busch, Director of F&B/Executive Chef, Atlanta Marriot Marquis

    Cathy Colasanto, Director of Operations, Turner Food & Spirits Co.

    Patrick Cuccaro, General Manager, Affairs to Remember Caterers

    Paul Damico, President, Moe’s Southwest Grill

    Michael Deihl, Executive Chef, East Lake Golf Club

    Toby Franklin, Chief Operating Officer, Rocket Farm Restaurants

    Chip Haight, Director of Purchasing, Levy Restaurants/GWCC

    Robby Kukler, Co-Founder & Partner, Fifth Group Restaurants

    Amy Patterson, VP, Business Development & Corporate Events, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau

    Holly Royston, Food Sourcing Manager, Atlanta Community Food Bank

    Todd Rushing, Partner, Concentrics Restaurants

    Daryl Shular, Executive Chef/Chief Academic Officer, Le Cordon Bleu Atlanta

    Jim Sprouse, Executive Director, Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association

    Tracy Stuckrath, President and Chief Connecting Officer, Thrive! Meetings and Events

    Hilary White, Owner/Executive Chef, The Hil, a restaurant at Serenbe

    A key objective for the council is to assist show management with building awareness in the local community about the event to significantly increase the attendance and attract a larger group of exhibitors.

    Atlanta Foodservice Expo is the only event in Georgia and the Southeast to bring together under one roof all sectors of the restaurant, foodservice, and hospitality industries with a broad range of the best suppliers. The second edition will be held October 13-14, 2014 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
  • 26 Feb 2014 4:35 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Coosa Valley News
    By: Tony Potts

    Kennesaw State University’s Chef de Cuisine Gary Coltek has been named one of the 2014 Georgia Grown Executive Chefs by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Georgia Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black and Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) Executive Director Karen Bremer announced the 2014 Georgia Grown Executive Chefs on Feb. 19, 2014, at the GRA’s Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception, held at the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot.

    `As demonstrated through the success of this program, Georgia Grown Executive Chefs creates a greater awareness about the availability of the quality, local products that can be found on our state’s expanding culinary scene,” Black said. “This program is one of the many ways working with the Georgia Restaurant Association helps us promote and foster relationships between chefs and our farmers across the state.”

    The Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program seeks to promote the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown campaign statewide. Now entering its third year, the program offers participating chefs a mark of honor and distinction, while increasing awareness for both restaurateurs and consumers about which local Georgia products are available for the cooking season.

    `This year, the Georgia Grown Executive Chef program had many exceptional applicants, and making a decision for the 2014 Executive Chefs was extremely difficult,” said Bremer. “We believe the four selected chefs will do an outstanding job representing a program that is not only beneficial for the growth of Georgia’s economy and job growth, but one that allows chefs to incorporate fresh, locally grown products into their menus, and allows them to promote the vast amount of products that Georgia has to offer.”

    The other three chefs for 2014 are Chef Roberto Leoci of Leoci`s Trattoria in Savannah, Chef Marc Taft of Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, and Virginia Willis of Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc. in Atlanta.

    As the program grows, it will create a pathway for consumers to find Georgia Grown products in their communities in order to support local, seasonal foods when dining out. It also aims to highlight and involve public school culinary education and school food nutrition in terms of increased opportunities for Georgia Grown products, training and recipe development. The chefs will participate in a spring and fall school event, an organized farm tour, at least one seasonal cooking clip with the department and at least one Georgia Grown cooking event designated by Black.
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