NJRA Annual Awards Gala Sparkles With Success


Snowflakes, lighted ice sculptures, frosty blue and white decorations and dozens of warm, sparkling candles were the backdrop for this year’s elegant New Jersey Restaurant Association’s 2014 Annual Awards Gala held at The Merion in Cinnaminson on December 1st.

The Awards Gala is considered the industry’s premier event and draws around 300 guests annually. The 2014 affair did not disappoint and lasted long into the evening while honoring four very special individuals in the state’s restaurant industry. The honorees included:

  • Restaurateur of the Year: Edward Doherty, Founder of Doherty Industries
  • Deborah Roy-Dowdell Lifetime Achievement Award: Harry Knowles, Founder of The Knowles Group
  • Gold Plate Award: Robert Cooper, President of Chef’s International
  • Gold Plate Award: Robert Scerbo, owner of The Exchange.

Held for the first time in Burlington County and sponsored by RBC Wealth Management, the event was lavishly decorated and provided food beyond most attendee’s imaginations. Each guest was also given a commemorative journal of the evening and a gift bag stuffed with hot chocolate, peppermint tea, organic honey and pumpkin spice coffee compliments of NJRA members.

“The Merion really out did itself,” said Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association regarding the venue that hosted the function, “People in our industry can have discerning eyes and taste buds when it comes to catered events, and The Merion passed with flying colors and was very impressive.”

Many other sponsors supported the special evening through customized event sponsorship packages. These included: Applebees, Landmark Hospitality, True & Associates, DiCarlo Foodservice, Ivey Barnum & O’Mara, LLC.

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Each honoree was personally announced and escorted into the awards ceremony by a previous winner in their category. The escorts also gave a short speech about the recipient and handed over the prestigious award.

A silent auction was present and frequented by many guests. All proceeds from the auction items were donated and sold to support the New Jersey Restaurant Education Foundation, especially the hotly growing ProStart program, an annual competition where a management and culinary team is selected through a rigorous and competitive competition each January to represent the state in National ProStart Competition sponsored by the National Restaurant Association.

Upon completion of dinner and the awards there was dancing and more drinks at an after party onsite.

“Each year we strive to make the event more memorable and fun for guests,” said Halvorsen, “By adding a title sponsor like RBC Wealth Management and selecting a venue that is obviously an expert at hosting large upscale events, we were able to accomplish that goal. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to the challenges of 2015.”