The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) celebrated the stars of Florida’s hospitality industry at its Shades of Pink Installation and Awards Gala on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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FRLA Celebrates Florida’s Hospitality Industry Stars at Awards Ceremony

– FRLA Unveils 2015 Hall of Fame & 2016 Executive Committee –
(ORLANDO, FL) – The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) celebrated the stars of Florida’s hospitality industry at its Shades of Pink Installation and Awards Gala on Wednesday, October 7, 2015. During the ceremony, held at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, FRLA announced its 2016 Executive Committee and unveiled its 2015 Hall of Fame along with other industry award winners. A portion of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Susan G. Komen Central Florida to help fund breast cancer research.Lino Maldonado, Vice President of Operations for Wyndham Vacation Rentals, was named FRLA’s 2016 Chairman of the Board. Maldonado will preside over the FRLA, one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing more than 10,000 members in the hospitality industry.

FRLA congratulates its newly elected Executive Committee, Hall of Fame and Shades of Pink award winners.

2016 FRLA Executive Committee:
Lino Maldonado Chairman Wyndham Vacation Rentals, Gulf Region
Don Fox Vice Chair Firehouse of America, Jacksonville
Kevin Speidel Secretary-Treasurer Hilton Worldwide, Ft. Lauderdale
Chau Nguyen Director 2016-17 Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, Orlando
Pam Avery Director 2016-17 Holiday Inn Tampa Westshore, Tampa
Paul Hineman Director 2016 First Watch Restaurants, Sarasota
Andrew Reiss Immediate Past Chair Andrew’s Downtown, Tallahassee

At the event, Hall of Fame Awards were given to individuals who have attained career distinctions of the highest level and were recognized for distinguished service to their industry, community, charitable organizations and family. The 2015 Hall of Fame is as follows:

2015 Restaurateur of the Year: Chris Christini, Christini’s Ristorante Italiano, Orlando
For more than three decades, Chris Christini’s namesake, Christini’s Ristorante Italiano, has been recognized as a world-class dining establishment. Christini’s is a five-star dining experience like no other. The experience of opening more than 19 restaurants and hotels (including five original Alfredo’s of Rome in the United States) has earned Christini significant recognition in the restaurant business. He has received a number of prestigious awards including: the Fine Dining Hall of Fame, the Ivy Award and the Best Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator Magazine. More than 30 years later, Christini still oversees every aspect of the operation. His impeccable reputation has drawn celebrities, dignitaries and professionals from all over the world.

2015 Hotelier of the Year: Russ Kimball, Sheraton Sand Key, Clearwater
Russ Kimball arrived in Florida 1966 and began his career as General Manager of the Sheraton Sand Key Resort on Clearwater Beach. He is still serving in that position today. His dedication to customer satisfaction, non-stop reinvestment in facilities, and his continuous advancement of quality standards has brought significant attention to the hotel, leading to it being ranked consistently in the “Top 10” for customer satisfaction in North American Sheraton Hotels. Kimball’s leadership extends beyond hotel operations through his service as an international marketing pioneer for Florida. As an original board member of VISIT FLORIDA, he championed the establishment of international offices and continues to travel as an ambassador. He has served for more than 30 years as a member and now Vice Chairman of the Pinellas Tourism Development Council and is engaged in numerous associations dedicated to enhancing regional and national hospitality. The city of Clearwater awarded him the title of “Mr. Clearwater” (2010) and he has also been inducted into the Hall of Fame for both VISIT FLORIDA and the Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University.

2015 Supplier of the Year: Greg Ohlemacher, Ecolab
Ecolab has been a strong supporter of FRLA for many years, and Greg Ohlemacher has contributed greatly to the association throughout his employment with Ecolab. Ohlemacher is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management. He started his career with Hyatt Hotels in 1990 and held various management positions including: Executive Steward, Restaurant Manager and Assistant Hotel Manager. Greg started with Ecolab 1994. His diverse experience with Ecolab includes working as: Territory Sales Manager, District Sales Manager, Area Route Manager, Operations Director for Global Marine, Corporate Accounts Manager, and currently is the AVP of Sales for North Florida.

During the evening, FRLA also announced four new annual award categories to recognize exceptional service throughout the state: Restaurant General Manager of the Year, Hotel General Manager of the Year, Restaurant Employee of the Year and Hotel Employee of the Year. Winners and nominees were chosen by a panel of independent industry judges.

Restaurant General Manager of the Year
*WINNER:  Long Mai General Manager, Kobe Japanese Steak House, Orlando
Al Romeo General Manager, Flemings Steak House, Naples
Danielle Williams-Rosse Owner/Operator, Oceans 234, Deerfield Beach


Hotel General Manager of the Year
*WINNER:  Roger Amidon General Manager, Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa
Brian Comes General Manager, Hyatt Regency Orlando
Carlton Hudson Managing Director, Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort


Restaurant Employee of the Year
*WINNER:  Joejie Laxamana Pool Bartender, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale
Monica Alarcon Server, Sergio’s Family Restaurants, Miami
Karen Hourigan Chef, Corporate Trainer, Café 4750 at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island


Hotel Employee of the Year
*WINNER:  Joseph Louis Jeune Stewarding Supervisor, Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, Orlando
Eileen Abrams Guest Services Representative, Hampton Inn and Suites, Largo
Suzette Wong Guest Service Agent, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale


About the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association
FRLA is Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality industry trade association. Our mission is to ‘Protect, Educate and Promote’ Florida’s $82 billion hospitality industry which represents 23% of Florida’s economy and more than 1.1 million employees – making it the state’s number one industry. We offer regulatory compliance and food safety training needs (RCS and SafeStaff®); industry developed career-building high school programs (FRLAEF); sponsor the only event in Florida exclusively serving the restaurant and foodservice industry (FR&L Show, October 6-8, 2015 in Orlando); and we safeguard the needs of the hospitality industry by providing legislative advocacy. We represent and serve more than 10,000 independent and household name members, suppliers, and theme parks. For more information, go to and find us on Twitter @FRLAnews, Facebook and YouTube.


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