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FSN to Produce Charlie Awards

J.D. Fratzke, winner of the 2016 Outstanding Chef award, performs at the Charlies.

Longtime sponsor Foodservice News has agreed to take over production and administration of the Charlie Awards—the annual celebration of the best of the food and beverage industries in the Twin Cities—from the founders of the annual event, Scott Mayer and Sue Zelickson.

Mayer and Zelickson will continue as consultants to the Charlie Awards and to serve on the all-volunteer advisory committee.

“Foodservice News is the perfect organization to take the Charlie Awards to the next level,” Mayer said. “I have always been impressed with Foodservice News’ ability to be inclusive of the entire food and beverage industry in their publications and events, and they have the resources to ensure that the annual celebration is of the highest quality.”

Similar to a culinary Academy Awards, the Charlies brings together restaurateurs, chefs, managers, servers, bartenders, designers, food truckers, vendors and hospitality professionals to highlight innovation, community service and excellence. Some award categories shift each year, but a few mainstays include Lifetime Achievement, Community Hero and Outstanding Chef.

“We started the Charlie Awards to honor and celebrate our local food and beverage professionals who continually give so much to our community in numerous ways,” said Zelickson. “After six successful and meaningful years, we are moving to a new level. We are proud and excited to partner with Foodservice News, and we look forward to continuing to honor and celebrate our vibrant and important Minnesota food and drink industry together.”

The Charlies is an annual event that culminates in an entertainment-packed show. It has been held at the Pantages Theater in downtown Minneapolis since its inception, and includes entertainment by local bands and singers, plus musical numbers by local chefs, such as J.D. Fratzke of Saint Dinette and the recently closed Strip Club Meat & Fish, who also won 2016’s Outstanding Chef award. The IDS Center Crystal Court has been the venue for the post-show reception, and the past two years have included a dinner at Windows on Minnesota, featuring a menu prepared by the previous years’ Charlie Awards honorees.

The awards are named after the legendary restaurant Charlie’s Café Exceptionale, which was a mainstay in downtown Minneapolis until the 1980s. Samples of the restaurant’s legendary potato salad are served at the after-party as a nod to the restaurant, as well as a treat for those who never dined there.

The Charlies partners with a nonprofit organization, Open Arms of Minnesota, which provides meals to persons facing life-threatening illnesses. The publisher of Foodservice News hopes to add additional food-related nonprofits to the event down the road.

“Foodservice News is looking forward to working with Scott and Sue to produce a top-notch event,” said Nancy Weingartner Monroe, editor of Foodservice News. “We have a lot of experience putting on events, both locally and nationally, and we think this partnership will ensure that the Charlies continues to aid food-related charities, as well as honoring the busy restaurants professionals who go above and beyond for their art and their customers.”

The Charlies has always been fortunate to have a strong advisory board whose members do a lot of the heavy lifting, according to Zelickson, as well as generous sponsors. Mayer and Zelickson notified the board and sponsors of the sale in mid-April.

A new date for the event, as well as its venue, will be announced in the next few weeks. Readers of Foodservice News will be the first to know.

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