Monday, July 29, 2013

Acme Oyster House leaders named LRA Restaurateurs of the Year

Mike Rodrigue, owner of
Acme Oyster House is a
2013 Restaurateur of the Year
Michael Rodrigue, Lucien Gunter and Paul Rotner, owner, chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively, of Acme Oyster House, will receive the 2013 Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Restaurateurs of the Year award at the LRA Education Foundation (LRAEF) “Five Star Futures” Gala Saturday, August 3, 2013 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, Grand Ballroom.

Restaurateur of the Year is the LRA’s most prestigious award. Each year, it is presented to an individual (or individuals) who has contributed unselfishly to the advancement of Louisiana’s restaurant industry and has continually dedicated his services at both the local chapter and state levels.

Rodrigue, a native New Orleanian, bought the iconic Acme Oyster House in 1985, during a slow period in the restaurant’s history. He got to work, reviving the restaurant and creating a brand that boasts five locations in the Greater New Orleans area, Baton Rouge and Florida and has grown to 500 employees with an annual revenue topping $25 million. Rodrigue is one of the founding members of the Bayou District Foundation, which revitalized the former St. Bernard Housing Project and City Park Golf Course.                       
Lucien Gunter, CEO of Acme
Oyster House is a LRA 2013
Restaurateur of the Year.

With more than 20 years of hospitality experience, Gunter serves as Acme’s chief executive officer, successfully opening four of the company’s five restaurants. Next year, he will oversee the sixth location, located in Gulf Shores, Ala. Gunter serves on many boards, including the LRA Education Foundation and the Fore!Kids Foundation and currently chairs the New Orleans Oyster Festival.

Paul Rotner, COO of
Acme Oyster House
is a LRA 2013
Restaurateur of the Year.
A California native, Rotner has more than 30 years of management experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry, with stints at the Hard Rock Café and Hotel chain in Las Vegas, among other cities, and the Pink Taco Restaurant chain. He joined Acme in 2007 and is its chief operating officer. Rotner sits on the LRA Board of Directors and is currently the LRA Greater New Orleans Chapter President. He also volunteers his time to the Save Louisiana Coalition and the Sunshine Kids Foundation.

“Acme is involved at every level of our association,” said LRA Chair David Hearn. “Their commitment of time, staff involvement and funds are unmatched. We are so thankful to have them on board. They make the LRA a stronger organization.”

Four other respected Louisiana business leaders received the LRA’s other annual awards: Associate Member of the Year, Advocate of the Year and Hall of Fame Inductee.
Nick Hazard, VP
New Orleans Division
Crescent Crown Distributing
2013 LRA Associate  
Member of the Year.

The Associate Member of the Year Award recognizes restaurant industry suppliers who display exceptional dedication to and support of the LRA. This year’s recipient is Nick Hazard, Vice President New Orleans Division of Crescent Crown Distributing. Hazard, a hospitality industry veteran of 24 years, previously worked for Hard Rock Café and Miller Brewing Company. He has been a dedicated member of the LRA since 2002 and serves on the LRA Board of Directors. He is a tireless volunteer to not only the state organization, but also the Greater New Orleans Chapter, in which he is also a board member. A die-hard LSU fan and former football player, Hazard was the Tigers’ team captain in 1987.

Sen. Neil Riser is the
LRA Advocate of the Year.
The Advocate of the Year is presented to recognize individuals who have supported the advocacy efforts of the LRA and its partner industries. This year’s honoree is Senator Neil Riser, representing District 32 in the Louisiana Senate. Riser is the president and owner of the Riser Funeral Homes in Caldwell and LaSalle parishes, in northeastern Louisiana. As a business owner, he understands the importance of the state’s restaurant industry and has been a great champion of the LRA’s cause.

Each year, the LRA recognizes a member who has given faithful, dedicated and outstanding service to the association by inducting him or her into the LRA Hall of Fame. Drago and Klara Cvitanovich of Drago’s Seafood Restaurant in Metairie and New Orleans are this year’s inductees. The Cvitanovich family’s generosity is legendary in the New Orleans area and at the pinnacle are Drago and Klara. After emigrating from Croatia, they opened Drago’s Seafood Restaurant in Metairie in 1970 and have been dedicated members of the LRA since 1991. Following Hurricane Katrina, Drago’s became a hub of activity, feeding the community and first responders more than 77,000 hot meals at no charge. These days, Drago can still be found sitting at the bar most afternoons at the Metairie restaurant and Klara continues to work six days a week. As her son, LRA Past Chair Tommy Cvitanovich, always points out, she still signs his checks.
Drago and Klara Cvitanovich of Drago's Seafood Restaurant
are the 2013 LRA Hall of Fame inductees.

“On behalf of the LRA, I am honored to recognize these award winners and commend them for the work they do not only for their individual businesses, but also for the association and the restaurant and hospitality industries,” said Hearn.

Also during the gala, 24 culinary and hospitality students will be awarded $51,000 in LRAEF/National Restaurant Association Education Foundation co-branded and general hospitality scholarships, including the Jim Funk Scholarship, which is awarded to the top recipient among the general hospitality scholarship applicants. The scholarship is named for former LRA President & CEO Jim Funk, who retired in 2010, after a long career with the association.

If you would like to make a donation to the LRAEF, in honor of an award recipient, please contact Alice Glenn,

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