Frosting got a lot of attention, as it so deserved, Wednesday night at the RI Hospitality Association and RI Hospitality Education Foundation Stars of the Industry celebration at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
“I like my chocolate cake with frosting…who doesn’t?” association president and CEO Dale Venturini said to the more than 500 gathered before a stage bathed in light with long runways stretching out among the dinner tables on which about 60 award recipients walked to receive their award after a summary of their accomplishments. As the name of the event stated, a majority of award recipients were hotel, restaurant and tourism employees and vendors.
And then there were a few from outside the industry who were honored, too, like Rep. Joseph McNamara.
McNamara would have gotten the “frosting” award if there were such a thing. He was one of three to receive hospitality ambassador of the year awards. Venturini credited McNamara and Johnson & Wales that stepped forward to do the research for seeking solutions during the legislative rush to reduce trans fats from foods served by hotels and restaurants. Frosting contains trans fats, and an outright ban would have made for some rather bland chocolate cake.
“He called us and gave us time to work it out,” Venturini said of McNamara.The evening saw a number of Warwick residents and establishments honored. Greg Putnam of the Hilton Providence and Cheryl LaBanca of the Radisson Hotel Providence were among hotel employees of the year. Kristen Adamo of the Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau was among five to be honored as tourism employees of the year. NYLO was presented the education partnership of the year award. Jose Estrompa, vice president of Johnson & Wales Inn and general manager of the Radisson, was named hotelier of the year and Lisa Doucet-Albert of Warwick and the Regan Communications Group was presented the president’s award. Doucet-Albert worked closely with Venturini in getting the association message across. John Howell, publisher of the Warwick Beacon, was presented the media partnership award for the paper’s coverage of the industry’s campaign against the governor’s proposed added meal tax and the paper’s editorial opposition to the tax that eventually failed.
The association planned for a lively night, and that’s the way it played out. Many of the recipients strutted their stuff on the runways playing to the crowd that stood to cheer, clang cowbells and blow horns that had been placed around the tables.
The evening came to a close with the presentation of the lifetime achievement award to David DePetrillo. DePetrillo is no stranger to the industry. He served as director of tourism for the state from 1983 through September 2008. He is the co-founder and chairman of the Rhode Island Hospitality Education Foundation. He and his wife, Jean, are Cranston residents.