Dining With Denise Neil

It’s like the Oscars for Kansas restaurants, and Wichita won big

It’s like the Oscars for Kansas restaurants, and on Monday night, several Wichita favorites took home the big trophies.

The Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association put on its annual industry awards event at the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, where a ballroom was filled with many of the state’s top and up-and-coming restaurant owners, all dressed in their finest. Among those in attendance were the owners of Freddy’s Frozen Custard, Greystone Steak and Seafood, Deano’s, Oak & Pie, Meddy’s, Wine Dive, The Hill Bar & Grill, Doo-Dah Diner, The Anchor and Reverie Coffee Roasters just to name a few.

Members of the association pay dues to be a part of it, and they're the only ones up for awards.

Wichita businesses were the most recognized at the event, and money was raised for ProStart, a program that trains high school students in the culinary arts. The program is in place in 30 high schools in Kansas.

Here’s a look at who won on Monday:

Restaurateur of the Year: This was the big award of the evening, and only Wichita restaurants made the list of nominees. Patrick and Timirie Shibley, owners of Doo-Dah Diner at 206 E. Kellogg, took home the trophy, but the nominees included John Arnold, who owns Deano’s, Greystone and Oak & Pie; Larry and Judy Doss, who own Walt’s East; Ken and Carol Hertel, who own Barn’rds; and Brent and Brad Steven, who own The Hill, Wine Dive and Industry Old Town.

“It just amazes me that all the odds were stacked against the diner succeeding,” said Timirie Shibley, who started the diner with her chef husband five years ago. “It proves that with hard work and showing appreciation to those who dine with us and those who work with us combined with finding creative ways to give back to our community, anything is possible in this industry.”

Hot new concept: This award honored an entrepreneur who had come up with a unique idea for a restaurant, and it also went to a Wichitan. Oak & Pie, which opened this spring at 2244 N. Greenwich, took the award, which was accepted by Arnold and manager Erin Edwards. The other nominees were Meddys in Wichita, Mass Street Fish House in Lawrence, Merchant Street Pub in Lawrence, and Shindigs, a popular new bar and restaurant in Winfield.

Hall of Fame: Each year, the association inducts a longtime member who’s contributed big to the industry into its Hall of Fame, and this year’s inductee was Scott Redler, who not only is a co-founder and co-owner of Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers but who also has a long history in Wichita’s restaurant industry, including founding Timberline and helping lead Latour Management.

Kansas Craft Brewer of the Year: This is a new award, meant to honor someone in Kansas’ growing craft brew industry. Chuck Magerl, who founded Free State Brewing in Lawrence, was on hand to take his award.

“On behalf of all of those who have been brewing beer in Kansas for many years, I truly appreciate this acknowledgment of the work that we do day in and day out,” he said in his acceptance speech.

Heart of the Industry Award: This one went to someone who went above and beyond motivating and treating employees well, and the winner was Angela Morris of Regal Cinemas, which took over the Warren Theatres earlier this year. Michael Brown of Goodcents Deli also was nominated.

ProStart Mentor of the Year: David Priest of Bonefish Grill won this award, which recognizes someone who made an extra effort helping and mentoring high schoolers in the ProStart program.

Allied Partner of the Year: This award went to someone who works with the state’s restaurateurs and who makes life easier for them. Patrick Schreiner, who works with Heartland Payment Systems, a credit card processing company, was the winner.

ProStart Teacher of the Year: La Dena Laha, who teaches culinary classes at Eisenhower High School in Goddard, won this award.

Hotelier of the Year: Adrian Potter, who owns Abilene’s Victorian Inn Bed & Breakfast, took this award. The other nominee was Mike Aaron of LaQuinta Inn & Suites, Wichita Airport.

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