NCRLA’s annual awards ceremony celebrates North Carolina’s top hospitality industry professionals.
RALEIGH, N.C. (Feb. 13, 2024) – The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA), the voice of North Carolina’s restaurant, foodservice and lodging industry, hosted its annual Stars of the Industry awards ceremony last night.
Twenty-two recipients in 11 categories were recognized during the ceremony at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel in Durham. This year’s winners were selected based on their exemplary service, leadership, innovation and dedication to the restaurant and lodging industries. The emcee for the night was Jatovi McDuffie, who is the entertainment host for the Carolina Hurricanes and the on-field announcer for the Durham Bulls.
“We are so proud to recognize the hardworking people in the hospitality industry,” said NCRLA President and CEO Lynn Minges. “This amazing group of men and women keep innovating and changing to help keep their businesses and our industry up and running.”
Two members of the North Carolina General Assembly, Sen. Bill Rabon and Rep. Robert T. Reives, II were recognized as Hospitality Champions for their leadership and support of the industry. The association also recognized four people with NCRLA’s Lifetime Achievement Award:
- Jim Beley, the former general manager at The Umstead Hotel and Spa, recently retired after more than 50 years in the hospitality industry. He spent nearly 15 years guiding the elite hospitality destination in Cary.
- Fred and Doris Huebner recently retired after running their family-owned business, Huebner Family McDonald’s, for more than 37 years. The company eventually expanded to include their son John and 17 McDonald’s restaurants across the state.
- Cecilia Saleh, the late matriarch of the Neomonde family of restaurants in Raleigh and the namesake of Sassool, was recognized posthumously for her grace, wisdom and faith, which laid the foundation for her family nearly 50 years ago when she immigrated from Lebanon with her favorite recipes.
In addition to running their businesses, these people spent a lot of their precious time protecting and advancing issues related to the hospitality industry across the state.
The other 2024 Stars of the Industry award recipients are as follows:
- Restaurateur of the Year
- Keith Rhodes, Catch and Tackle Box Kitchen, Wilmington
- Lodging Operator of the Year
- Russ Jones, LODEN Hospitality, Raleigh
- Hospitality Partners of the Year
- Josh Cooke, Raise the Grade, Greensboro
- Ken Conrad Award for Service to the Community
- Leonardo Williams, Zweli’s Ekhaya, Durham
- Sera Cuni, Café Root Cellar and Feed-Well Fridges Pittsboro
- Griff & June Glover Award for Service to the Association
- Lou and Joy Moshakos, LM Restaurants, Raleigh
- Restaurant Managers of the Year
- Troy Stauffer, Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, Durham
- Jill Highsmith, Angus Barn, Raleigh
- Restaurant Employee of the Year
- Kathy Baize, Biscuitville, Asheboro
- Alexander Collazo, Vidrio, Raleigh
- Lodging Managers of the Year
- Diane Tighe, Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club, Durham
- Xiomara Toledo, Hampton Inn & Suites, Jacksonville
- Lodging Employees of the Year
- Porcha Overbey, Pinehurst Resort, Pinehurst
- Debra Thompson, TownePlace Suites, Wilmington
The evening was made possible thanks to dedicated sponsors, including Presenting Sponsor US Foods; Photobooth Sponsor SpotOn; Silver Sponsors Ecolab, Employers and Uber Eats; Bronze Sponsor Pepsi; Registration Sponsor Insurance People of North Carolina; Supporting Sponsor North Carolina SweetPotato Commission; Wine Sponsors Shelton Vineyards, Tryon Distributing and E&J Gallo Winery; Cocktail Sponsors Weldon Mills Distillery and Cook’s Mill Whiskey; and Beer Sponsors Clouds Brewing and Trophy Brewing Company.
For more information about the 2024 NCRLA Stars of the Industry, visit www.ncrla.org/stars.
The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (NCRLA) serves to advance and protect the interests of more than 20,000 businesses that employ nine percent of the state’s workforce and generate more than $32.3 billion in sales annually.