The Georgia Restaurant Association announced its 2018 Restaurant Neighbor award state winners, all five of which are based in or have locations in Cobb County. These individuals and restaurant groups have demonstrated a dedicated commitment to serving their communities through outstanding charitable service and philanthropy and will advance to the national level to compete for the grand prize of $10,000 to support their favorite charity or nonprofit.
♦ Andre Gomez, Porch Light Latin Kitchen, Smyrna
Gomez is the owner and head chef of Porch Light Latin Kitchen located in Smyrna. The food, energy and design of the restaurant pay homage to Gomez growing up in Puerto Rico. After Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated his home country in 2017, Gomez called for his Georgia community to donate supplies, from bottled water to battery powered fans. They filled more than 12 tractor trailers with necessities and raised over $50,000 for relief efforts.
♦ Chris Hadermann, Southern Proper Hospitality, Cumberland
Southern Proper Hospitality is a huge proponent of supporting nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, New Story Charity, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and No Kid Hungry Campaign, as well as local schools. Hadermann was part of the inaugural class of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society that raised more than $40,000 in 2017. SPH has hosted multiple fundraisers and participated in off-site events to help end childhood hunger here in Georgia. In 2017, thanks to the collective efforts of staff and customers, the restaurant group donated more than $32,000 to these causes and others.
♦ John C. Metz, Marlow’s Tavern, Kennesaw and Vinings
Sterling Hospitality has raised more than $900k for Special Olympics Georgia since the inception of their partnership in 1999. Last year’s golf tournament alone raised $130k. Marlow’s Tavern participated in The Giving Kitchen’s inaugural Dining with Gratitude event and donated $7,000 to the organization. Metz, Executive Chef, CEO and Co-Founder of Marlow’s Tavern, is a big supporter of No Kid Hungry. Through in-store fundraisers and participation in Taste of the Nation, the Marlow’s Tavern team has helped raise thousands of dollars for the organization.
♦ Tom Murphy, Murphy’s | Paces & Vine, Vinings
In 2005, Murphy launched Good Measure Meals, a meal delivery service to benefit Atlanta’s poor, which he eventually donated to Project Open Hand. Open Hand helps people prevent or better manage chronic disease through Comprehensive Nutrition Care, which combines home-delivered meals and nutrition education as a means to reinforce the connection between informed food choices and improved quality of life. Open Hand Atlanta cooks, packages and delivers over 5,200 meals per day to those in the community who need it most.
♦ John Silvey, Zaxby’s, locations across Marietta
Silvey’s first Zaxby’s location has been a community ambassador for over 12 years and his second location for three years, supporting local churches with food donations, charities with financial contributions and families in need with employment opportunities. Silvey partners with several organizations that focus on helping children in local communities including the Cobb County Foster Adoptive Parents Association, My Next Big Adventure, Kamp Kizzy, Neyo’s Foster Care Camp and Ludacris’ LudaWeekend. For over five years, Silvey has been involved with the Orange Duffel Bag Initiative, a program that provides children aging out of foster care with leadership and life skills classes through a 12 week after-school program.
From all state winners, three national Restaurant Neighbor Award winners are chosen by a panel of industry professionals and receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. in April 2018 where they are honored at a gala awards dinner during the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affair Conference. Each national winner receives $10,000 to support their charitable giving efforts. Developed 19 years ago, the program is sponsored by American Express.
Georgia had a national winner in 2015 with Smyrna-based Unsukay Community of Businesses for their work with the Giving Kitchen, a nonprofit charity that provides emergency assistance to restaurant workers through financial assistance and a network of community resources.
“These restaurants deserve this recognition for helping to shape and strengthen their communities,” says Karen Bremer, CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association. “The restaurant industry goes the extra mile not only while serving guests at the table, but also while serving others in the community. We’re givers by nature and understand the importance of giving back.”