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From the Editor: Charlies Head into Month of Nominations

I never wanted to be the police reporter when I worked for a small daily in California, with the exception of the time there was a triple murder in a health club and the shooter had written a short story for a community college class foreshadowing his despicable deed. But as we all know, you can’t just show up for the big stories, someone has to do the police blotter. 

In my long tenure at Franchise Times and now Foodservice News, I’ve always been happier writing features about interesting people than hard news about bad business behavior.  I’m uncomfortable asking people what led to them closing their business’s doors or why their franchisees are suing them. 

And yet, I’m no Pollyanna, my glass tends to be half empty—just like a journalist’s glass should be. 

But at the Charlies’ Kickoff, my cup pretty much runneth over, as I watched the classic dance of preparation. Amy Brown, co-owner of Chowgirls Killer Catering, set out the food in the Brewers Den at Finnegans Brew Co. The fall-inspired menu was paired with several of Finnegans’ beers.  Chowgirls was the 2019 Outstanding Caterer winner, and they proved why they earned that honor. 

It was a bonanza of cake, cut in small, medium and large slices. 

I had already picked up the 10—count them, 10—birthday cakes from Edwards Dessert Kitchen to honor Charlies’ Co-founder Sue Zelickson’s birthday. When I ran into Christina Kaelberer, last year’s Outstanding Pastry Chef, at the fundraiser at the arboretum earlier in the summer, she said she’d be happy to bake a cake to honor Sue. “I love Sue,” she told me. She is the 234th person to tell me that (about Sue, not about baking me a cake).

It was a party of givers. Chowgirls and Christina made the food, but US Foods donated the ingredients. Society Insurance stepped up its sponsorship to include the drink sponsorship at the kickoff. And who is more popular than the guy who buys the first round? Thank you, Kevin Miller.

Finnegans donated the space and the amazing staff. Dr. Al Zelickson, Sue’s generous husband, hosted the champagne toast provided by the Eliot Park hotel. The hotel also donated a one-night stay, as did 300 Clifton, a bed and breakfast in Loring Park which donated a two-night stay. To qualify to win one of the two prizes, all participants had to do is fill out a nomination form. 

Since priming the nomination pump is the real reason for the kickoff, it’s gratifying to see that we had a stuffed ballot box. Nominations will continue for a month online at foodservicenews.net/Charlie-Awards/Nominations.

This year we returned to an earlier format of providing education, along with networking and frivolity. Lisa Lane of Open Arms reacquainted people with the mission of the nonprofit that receives proceeds from the Charlie Awards. 

Next up were Nick Upton and Laura Michaels, Food On Demand editors. Many of you will remember Laura as the former editor of Foodservice News, before she moved on to edit Franchise Times. Their topic was third-party delivery, a restaurant disruptor that appears to be a trend with legs. 

Adam Southam of MyFormulary, Dr. Elizabeth Klodas of Step One Foods and Chef Marshall O’Brien gave a brief overview on how restaurateurs could benefit by adding “functional foods” to their menus.  Around 80 percent of some chronic illnesses could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle, including eating healthy foods, Southam said. 

Restaurants have a unique opportunity to help their patrons leave their premises healthier than when they came in by including functional foods on the menu, O’Brien says, adding just don’t call it healthy. Healthy menu items tend to be the least ordered items. 

“Put me out of business,” Klodas said, referring to her role as a physician. 

A highlight of the event was celebrating Sue Zelickson’s 85th birthday. In true FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) form, Sue moved on from the kickoff to attend a fundraiser for Diane Moua’s father, who has cancer. 

And this is where I start feel OK that I am not cut out to be a hardboiled journalist, because it’s hard to be jaded when you see so much good in an industr

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