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Recognizing Canadian Talent: RC Show 2021 Awards of Excellence

With such a tumultuous year, it was more important than ever to recognize Canada’s foodservice and hospitality industry with this year’s RC Awards of Excellence winners. This year’s winners have all demonstrated incredible leadership in the face of adversity and challenges, and have all worked tirelessly to dedicate their talent to bettering their local community. Restaurants Canada couldn’t be prouder to announce the winners of the RC Awards of Excellence.

Zita Cobb – Founder & CEO, Shorefast Group, Leadership Award Winner

As a Fogo Island native, Zita Cobbs has dedicated her life to building cultural and economic resilience on Fogo Island. The drive to understand the global economic systems that had disadvantaged Fogo Island and numerous other small communities has led Zita’s career path and life journey. 

Fogo Island Inn was opened in 2013 by Zita, not to make a financial return but because “[they] were in a community that needed to put another life in our economy.”

Zita founded the Shorefast Foundation which now employs a quarter of the population on Fogo Island. Their social enterprises, The Woodshop on Fogo Island, Fogo Island Fish and the Inn aim to generate 15 per cent in profits to be invested back into charitable programs.

Cobb was one of four 2020 Canadian Business Hall of Fame inductees and in 2016, Zita was awarded the Order of Canada in acknowledgment of the work of Shorefast in collaboration with the community of Fogo Island to help secure a more resilient future for this singular rural place. In October 2020, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey announced Zita as one of the members of the Premier’s Economic Recovery Team. 

Chris Zielinski – Culinary Director, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), Culinary Excellence Award Winner

In his role as Culinary Director and Executive Chef for all MLSE properties, Chris Zielinski has elevated game night cuisine and challenged our perceptions of what dining out at a sporting event entails. 

As Culinary Director and Executive Chef for all MLSE properties, Chef Chris Zielinski has spearheaded a company-wide commitment to sustainable practices and has ensured that MLSE takes part in initiatives that source local ingredients, recycle cooking oil into biofuel, and use biodegradable products. Chris is pivotal in prioritizing strong community partnerships for MLSE. The team rescues thousands of meals in our spaces and distributes them to those in need through Second Harvest. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris created the “Bringing Toronto Back To Its Feet” program. By turning the Scotiabank Area into Toronto’s largest kitchen, and by gathering ingredient donations from a number of partners, Chris and his team were able to support and thank Toronto’s frontline health workers and their families, and to protect the city’s most vulnerable population that rely on community agencies and organizations like Second Harvest for their next meal.. 

Suzanne Barr – Chef, Social Advocate, Author, Suzanne Barr Food, Social Advocacy Award Winner

Chef Suzanne Barr is not just a chef. she is also a community leader—and speaks as passionately about mentorship as she does about food. She is a strong advocate for people of colour, mental wellness, equal pay for equal work, LGBTQ communities, nutrition literacy and food source sustainability. 

In June 2018, Suzanne was able to showcase her love of social advocacy and food when she was chosen to participate in the James Beard Foundation Chef’s Bootcamp at the New Farm in Collingwood, ON. In 2018, at the Women In Hospitality United symposium in New York City, she presented The Dinette’s Program, a cooperative training program providing an opportunity to learn, co-create, effective solutions for workplaces, and enhancing business productivity while promoting the next generation of women as industry leaders. 

In the fall of 2019, she was Head Chef/Owner at True True Diner in Toronto, Canada. This concept is a mirror of her unique culinary repertoire and social advocacy. While now closed, her official statement calls out a pattern of the systematic disenfranchisement of BIPOC owned and operated businesses in the restaurant industry and beyond.

Anita Stewart, Legacy Award Winner

Anita was a pioneer in Canada’s culinary landscape. As a Member of the Order of Canada, Food Laureate at the University of Guelph, the President of Food Day Canada & Flavours of Canada (these are just a few of the accolades Anita accumulated throughout her life), Restaurants Canada was proud to work with Anita and the Food Day Canada theme to promote Canadian terroir. 

Our industry has been immeasurably bettered by Anita’s actions and work. Our community has lost a positive force, however, we can be sure that Anita’s efforts will go on for years to come. Anita’s passion and spirit for Canadian cuisine and the people who make it happen was unrivaled. 

Anita’s motto – “Canada IS food and the world is richer for it”, stands today as a reminder not just of Anita’s incredible achievements, but also of our goals, as we work through these challenging times. Anita’s legacy will continue to live on as we look forward to celebrating Food Day Canada again this summer 2021.

Gastronomous Technologies, Innovation Award Winner

This year’s winner designed a ground-breaking innovation that realizes the kitchen of the future. This robust, scalable and cost-effective solution will allow restaurants to improve their cost-structure, efficiency, and scalability. In return providing their customers with superior consistency, hygiene and food quality. This proudly Canadian kitchen innovation is inspired by automotive engineers to address the needs of our industry.

If you weren’t able to join us to watch the Awards of Excellence live at RC Show 2021, check out the replay with RC Show ON DEMAND.

Use your RC Show login info to access the full library of content, or visit to learn how to register for RC Show ON DEMAND.


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