by Malcolm Jolley

2009 Gold Award winners Daniel and Matt Speck flank OHI Chairman Charles Grieco as Paul Speck holds the Gold Award won by brothers for their work at Niagara's Henry of Pelham winery.

Niagara local food champions Anna and Michael Olson will receive the Ontario Hostelry Institute’s coveted Chairman’s Gold Award at a black-tie gala dinner on April 15. The chef couple, who run the gourmet store Olson Foods in Port Dalhousie, will join this years of gold Award winners, which also include Guy and Michael Rubino of Ame, for Independent Restaurateur, James Chiu of Mandarin for Foodservice Chain Operator, Peter Elmhirst of Elmhirst Resort for Hotelier, Linda Bramble of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute for Educator, David Kent of Harpers Collins Canada for Media/Publishing, Amar Patel of The Indian Rice Factory for Chef and Cameron Rundle of The Ontario Food Terminal for Supplier.

The awards will be emceed by Mary Beaton and Bill Bennett from Langdon Hall, themselves past winners (Hotelier, 2002). Indeed, the roster of past winners is a veritable who’s who of the top rung of the hospitality industry in Ontario over the past 20 years including Isadore Sharpe, Franco Prevedello and Peter Oliver and Michael Bonacini to name a few from the very long illustrious list.

The dinner will do more than recognize the career contribution of the Gold Award winners. 20 new OHI Fellows will also be inducted (full disclosure: I am a 2006 Fellow). The Fellows may be up and comers, or even quite established. The conference of status recognizes both their present achievement and their promise. This year’s roster could be pulled from the pages of this website (and includes a number of Good Food Fighters)and includes: Jen Agg from The Black Hoof, Chef Jason Bangerter from Auberge de Pommier, writer Sasha Chapman, Mark Cutrara from Cowbell, Nigel Didcock from the Granite Club, author and historian Elizabeth Driver, Chef Jonathan Gushue from Langdon Hall, Rebecca LeHuep from the Ontario Cullinary Tourism Alliance, Chef Lorenzo Loseto from George, Antony John from Soiled Reputation farm,  Nicolette Novak from the Good Earth Cooking School, Mario Pingue from Niagara Specialty Foods, Chef Yasser Quahauish from  Artisanale, Chef Tawfik Shehata from Vertical, Chef Bettina Schormann from the Ancaster Old Mill Inn, Dick Snyder from City Bites, Chef Michael Steh from Reds Bistro, Chef Owen Steinberg from the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts,  Chef Scott Vivian from The Wine Bar and Chef Martha Wright from FRANK.

As important as it may be to celebrate excellence in the hospitality field, the OHI Gold Awards Gala serves another purpose, which is inextricable to its very existence. The institute was founded, explains Chairman Charles Grieco, when top restuarateurs in Toronto realized that their traditional supply of skilled front and back of the house workers from Europe was being exhausted as immigration patterns changed. The OHI was set up to help train a domestic workforce, and the Gala dinner’s prime objective is to raise money for scholarships for promising culinary and hotel students. Click here to learn more and order tickets to the hospitality industry’s most exciting evening.