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NATIONAL RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION HONORS - Recipients Recognized for Excellence in Community Service and Entrepreneurship

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) honored its 2013 “Restaurant Neighbor” and “Faces of Diversity American Dream” award winners at an April 17 gala during the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

CHICAGO – The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) honored its 2013 “Restaurant Neighbor” and “Faces of Diversity American Dream” award winners at an April 17 gala during the National Restaurant Association’s Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

The Foundation’s “Restaurant Neighbor Award,” founded in partnership with American Express, celebrates the outstanding charitable service performed by restaurant operators. The “Faces of Diversity American Dream” award, sponsored by PepsiCo Foodservice, is given to diverse members of the restaurant industry who have, through hard work and perseverance, achieved the American Dream.

“The recipients of the 2013 ‘Restaurant Neighbor’ and ‘Faces of Diversity American Dream’ awards exemplify a level of spirit for service and giving that is so uniquely prevalent in the restaurant industry. These awards shine the spotlight on the important role the industry plays helping others achieve success and fulfill their dreams,” said Rob Gifford, executive vice president of philanthropic initiatives for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. “Their stories are inspiring and highlight the very best of what the industry has to offer. We applaud their commitment and are proud to recognize their achievements.”

Recipients of the 2013 “Restaurant Neighbor Award” receive a $5,000 contribution to continue supporting their charitable initiatives. The winners were:

  • Arby’s Restaurant Group (Atlanta): Recognized for its mission to end hunger in partnership with Share Our Strength. Through a variety of national, grassroots and social media efforts, Arby’s raised more than $5 million in the past two years, in addition to connecting thousands with feeding programs in their communities.
  • El Gaucho Hospitality (Seattle): Donated more than $3 million over the last 10 years to local charities. The company has a long-standing relationship with Union Gospel Mission and has served 10,000 lunches to the less fortunate through a semi-monthly feeding program at the Mission.
  • Irish Pub (Philadelphia): Its annual “The Irish Pub Tour de Shore” 65-mile bike ride has raised $2.8 million for local charities since it began in 1987 and has grown to include more than 1,600 riders.
  • Steve Paternoster, Owner, Scalo Northern Italian Grill (Albuquerque, N.M): Honored for his significant support of and contributions to non-profits and his local community. Paternoster has founded several charitable organizations, including Youth Matters, in memory of his daughter, to help teens in the children’s court system, and Haley’s Haven, a home to provide counseling, self-esteem classes and employment training for girls, which includes a culinary component.

"American Express is proud to partner with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation to honor the incredible impact restaurant professionals have made on the industry and their communities," said Suzan Kereere, Senior Vice President of the National Client Group at American Express. "For 15 years, we have honored our recipients with the Restaurant Neighbor Award to acknowledge that their efforts have not gone unnoticed and hope their actions inspire the industry to continue giving back."

The 2013 “Faces of Diversity American Dream” awards went to three restaurant entrepreneurs. The winners were:

  • Monique Valenzuela Trudnowski, Owner/Operator, Adriatic Grill Italian Cuisine & Wine Bar (Tacoma, Wash.): By age 18, she had been abandoned by her father, worked to support her family, experienced being homeless and had her first child. Those setbacks didn’t stop her from opening her own restaurant in 2007 and, in 2009, establishing the Adriatic Grill Culinary Scholarship to help others pursue their dreams in the restaurant industry.
  • Sissy Ivy, ProStart Educator, Sevier County Career and Tech Center (Sevierville, Tenn.): She was the only sibling of seven children to graduate high school and remain out of prison. Ivy worked more than 15 years in the food industry to put herself through college to become a ProStart educator, operating a café and catering business with high school restaurant management and culinary arts students. All proceeds benefit the program and local charities.
  • Miguel Valdez, Executive Chef, The Red Door Restaurant/The Wellington Steak and Martini Lounge (San Diego): As a child, he and his family struggled against poverty, crime, drugs and an abusive father. He overcame a learning disability to work his way up from delivering pizzas to working as a line cook and eventually serving as executive chef. Valdez spends hundreds of hours cooking for charities and volunteering to teach low-income mothers to prepare healthy, cost-effective meals.

“PepsiCo Foodservice is excited to be a part of the ‘Faces of Diversity American Dream Award’ to help recognize these diverse individuals who have worked tirelessly to achieve their dreams of business ownership and success,” said Doug Allison, Vice President, Industry Relations, PepsiCo Foodservice. “They are not only true entrepreneurs, but also serve as role models for those that soon will become the future of the restaurant industry.”

For more information on the “Restaurant Neighbor” and “Faces of Diversity Award” programs, as well as the national winners and finalists, visit the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s website at

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation
As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF)’s goal is to enhance the stature of the restaurant industry. The restaurant and foodservice industry comprises 980,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of more than 13 million employees, making it one of the nation's largest employers. The NRAEF’s focus is to attract, develop and retain a career-oriented professional workforce and to create a more positive business climate for the restaurant industry. For more information on the NRAEF, visit

About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.  Global Merchant Services is the merchant network of American Express, which acquires and maintains relationships with millions of merchants around the world that welcome American Express-branded Cards.  Learn more at and connect with us on,,,, and

Key links to products and services:  charge and credit cards, business credit cards, travel services, gift cards, prepaid cards, merchant services, business travel, and corporate card.

About PepsiCo, Inc.
PepsiCo is a global food and beverage leader with net revenues of more than $65 billion and a product portfolio that includes 22 brands that generate more than $1 billion each in annual retail sales. Our main businesses – Quaker, Tropicana, Gatorade, Frito-Lay and Pepsi-Cola – make hundreds of enjoyable foods and beverages that are loved throughout the world. PepsiCo’s people are united by our unique commitment to sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and our planet, which we believe also, means a more successful future for PepsiCo. We call this commitment Performance with Purpose: PepsiCo’s promise to provide a wide range of foods and beverages for local tastes; to find innovative ways to minimize our impact on the environment by conserving energy and water and reducing packaging volume; to provide a great workplace for our associates; and to respect, support and invest in the local communities where we operate. For more information, please visit

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