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October 2003

By The Editors
SPECIAL REPORT: 6th Annual Supplies Awards

A record number of entries—33 in all—walked away winners in this year’s Supplies Competition, with good reason. Innovative designs and all-around good looks won the judges’ hearts.

Thirty-three winners. That was the final tally after judges finished their work evaluating some 100 overall entries in Foodservice Equipment Reports’ Sixth Annual Smallwares and Tabletop Competition, held in July at the FER offices in Skokie, Ill.

Thirty-three is quite a few winners. Indeed, it qualifies as the greatest number of winners in the competition’s six-year history. It’s the direct result of judges liking—and we mean, really liking—so many of the products displayed for them.

Logistics this time were infinitely easier, compared to competitions of years past. We happily eliminated the early-morning product portage (from office to hotel meeting room via the publisher’s minivan) by renting space on the main floor of our own building. (Talk about an “ah-ha!” moment.) That put the venue but an elevator ride from “home.” Our panel of judges was well-balanced. It included three dealer-distributors who could compare products on the market, and three operators who are actually using them. We put their collective foodservice experience at about 100 years, if you throw in the formative years spent working in various restaurants.

From the operator side came Chef Hans Aeschbacher, executive chef for Smith & Wollensky, Chicago; Tony Diar-Bakerli, general manager for Sodexho USA at Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill.; and Ray Rees, food production manager at Resurrection Medical Center and Holy Family Medical, Chicago. Representing dealers was Doug Mitchell, account manager for Columbus, Ohio-based Wasserstrom Co.’s Regional Food Service Group; Pam Sisler, handling corporate marketing and merchandising for Edward Don & Co., North Riverside, Ill.; and Susan Steinway, tabletop consultant for Milwaukee-based Boelter.

Judges moved from entry to entry in pairs and small groups, discussing the merits of each. As a result, scoring showed remarkable agreement compared to previous years. “We talked about the products, not about what points we were giving,” they told us.

Not surprisingly, our panel of operators and dealers wanted maximum bang for the theoretical buck, which made durability and flexibility key product attributes. They considered the basics as well: “Does it do what it’s supposed to?” “Does it look nice?” “Will it improve food or labor safety?” And the all-important, “Is it innovative?”

On the following pages, you’ll find separate stories on each competition, as well as full details on the nine smallwares and 24 tabletop winners. You’ll also get a look at the finalists they were up against on judging day.

Judges Panel

Chef Hans Aeschbacher has spent the past five years as executive chef for Smith & Wollensky, Chicago. Before that he served as executive chef at both the Chicago Stadium and the Ridgemoor (Ill.) Country Club. Previous postings include Lawry’s Prime Rib restaurant and La Chiminee Restaurant (both in Chicago) and Lawry’s California Center. Before leaving his native Switzerland, he worked as head chef for the Swiss army.

Tony Diar-Bakerli anchors foodservice operations at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., as general manager for the Sodexho USA account. Before that, his more than 10 years of upper management experience in foodservice include the general manager position for Bon Appetit’s Wheaton College account, operations director for Rezko Enterprises (a restaurant management company), and assistant district director for Stefani Group’s Tuscany Restaurant’s Div., all in the Chicago area.

Doug Mitchell has served for seven years as account manager for Wasserstrom Co.’s Regional Food Service Group out of Columbus, Ohio. Mitchell provides foodservice equipment, supplies and smallwares to regional independent and chain restaurants, clubs, hotels, healthcare facilities, schools and institutions. Before joining Wasserstrom, Mitchell spent 17 years managing independent fine-dining restaurants as well as some multiunit casual-dining chain operations.

Ray Rees has managed food production at Resurrection Medical Center and Holy Family Medical Center in Chicago for six years. Both facilities are part of Resurrection Health Care, the largest Catholic healthcare system in Chicago. Before that he spent more than 20 years working in the healthcare field at Chicago-area hospitals and the University of Notre Dame.

Pam Sisler has been with Edward Don & Co. since 1994, handling the corporate marketing and merchandising of dinner-, buffet- and tableware categories for the North Riverside, Ill.-based distributor. A jack-of-all-trades, Pam negotiates with manufacturers, collects advertising materials for sales staff and customers, plans booths for shows, and coordinates sales meetings.

Susan Steinway, of Milwaukee-based Boelter Co., has worked as a Chicago-area tabletop consultant for nearly 15 years. Her customer base includes restaurants, hotels and healthcare accounts. Steinway came to the foodservice industry through her brother-in-law, who owns a gourmet food distribution company.

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