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Chefs to earn top honors for produce excellence at United Fresh 2014

United Fresh has opened the nomination period for the 2014 Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards program, which honors the foodservice industry’s most innovative produce performers.

The program, sponsored by PRO*ACT LLC since its launch in 2008, has honored more than 30 different chefs and foodservice operators for their exceptional work in incorporating fresh produce in menu development, proper food safety and handling, engaging in community outreach and building an overall positive dining experience with fresh produce as a centerpiece.

“Thousands of talented chefs work hard every day to find innovative ways to showcase fresh produce in their menus,” Tom Stenzel, United Fresh president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “With PRO*ACT’S generous support, we are proud to honor those chefs who are committed to making produce the centerpiece of the meal.”

In 2014, the Business in Industry and Colleges category will be expanded into two separate categories, “Business in Industry” and “Colleges and Universities,” bringing the total number of winning chefs to seven.

Chefs also will be honored in each the following business categories: Casual and Family Dining, Fine Dining Restaurants, Hotels and Healthcare Industry, K-12 Foodservice and Quick Service Restaurants. Winners are selected by a panel of United Fresh member representatives. Nominations must be submitted by Feb. 28; nomination information is available online at

“Fresh produce continues to be the rising star of the foodservice sector, and chefs play a critical role in introducing consumers to new produce items,” said Max Yeater, president of PRO*ACT. “We are proud to support this exceptional program and honor leading chefs who are making fresh produce the highlight of their menus.”

The seven winning chefs and their corporate executives receive complimentary airfare, hotel accommodations and registrations to United Fresh 2014, June 10-13 in Chicago. The winners will be honored at the Produce Celebration Gala, and the chefs will also participate in the education program at United Fresh 2014 to share their views on produce trends in foodservice. PRO*ACT will also make a donation to a charitable organization of each winner’s choice.

The 2013 winners in each category were:

  • Business in Industry and Colleges: Chef Joshua Distenfeld, executive chef, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore
  • Casual and Family Dining Restaurants: Chef Christopher John Raucci, corporate chef, Ted's Montana Grill, Atlanta
  • Fine Dining Restaurants: Chef John Johnson, regional executive chef-St. Louis, Pinnacle Entertainment Co., St. Louis
  • Hotels and Healthcare: Chef Chad Tyler Brodkin, executive chef, The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, Benchmark Hospitality International, Blacksburg, VA
  • K-12 School Foodservice: Kevin LaPittus, director of child nutrition services, Encinitas Union School District, Encinitas, CA
  • Quick Service Restaurants: Chef Ethan Kawasaki, executive chef, Café Zupas, Sandy, UT

For more information about the award program, please contact Miriam Wolk, vice president of membership and marketing, at or 202-303-3400 ext. 410.