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Charlies Kickoff Photos

Charlies event planner, Rachel Knudson, and Jessica Lenard of Finnegans.

It’s hard to find a night in the Twin Cities where there aren’t a dozen food-related events going on. It’s a testament to the vibrancy of our food and beverage community and to the generosity of both the vendors and chefs and bartenders and everyone who preps, cooks, pours, serves and cleans up. There is never a shortage around here of ways to help people in need.

The Charlies were started 10 years ago as a way to honor the foodservice community in the greater Twin Cities area. 

Co-founder Sue Zelickson reminded us all of the day she attended the Ivey Awards for the theater crowd and asked the producer, Scott Mayer, “Why can’t we have one? The foodservice industry works harder than actors?” Mayer agreed to help, although he remains mum on who works harder. They named the awards after a restaurant known for its excellent service and food, and white tablecloths, Charlies Exceptionale. It didn’t hurt that “exceptionale” was in the title. 

When Foodservice News bought the Charlies three years ago, we bumped the November event to the end of January/first of February, which is why although the Charlies are 10 years old, we are producing the ninth annual event next year.

The awards have increased to 15, with some new categories, as well as some established ones, such as Outstanding Chef and Restaurant. 

One of the things that confuses people about the awards is how do you define “outstanding”?’ We admit, we struggle with that as well. But we’re not alone in that conundrum. I’m sure the issuers of the James Beard Awards, struggle as well. For the numerous Hollywood awards, the outstanding actor in a musical, helps narrow down the field to one performance.  But the Charlies doesn’t have the luxury of a one-time performance. (Participants in this industry work 24-7, or so it seems.) So, we open up the nominations to the outstanding people and establishments’ peers. You are the people who know excellence, a good management style and whether the food costs are aligned with the product. 

The kickoff is the first day to nominate, but the polls are open until October 16. You can nominate online at Foodservicenews.net, under the Charlies Tab. 

And after you nominate, please mark your calendars for Sunday, February 9, where you can see the Charlies Live. 

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