Bartender of the Year: Steva Casey, The Veranda on Highland
Steva Casey has been in the restaurant business for 15 years. She has always had a passion for food, learning to cook from her grandmother at a young age. Throughout her time in the restaurant industry, she has risen from waiter to wine buyer to bar manager. Being behind the bar, and in charge of a spirits program, has allowed her to excel at pairing flavors and creating new and inventive cocktails. "My first job priority is to be a good host. As long as my guests are happy, I feel like I'm doing a good job."
Chef of the Year: Bill Stellwagon, Westin Huntsville
Chef Stellwagen is a 37-year industry veteran and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York. Bill is an outstanding mentor, generously sharing his time and talents to develop the skills and abilities of his associates and has a genuine desire to advance the careers of those who work under his guidance as well as future industry leaders he mentors on the high school and college level.
Bill has the knowledge and ability to conquer any challenge. During the tornadoes, while the hotel was operating under emergency power only, Bill had the initiative and resourcefulness to procure the necessary equipment and supplies, allowing him to set up grills and portable cooking equipment to feed our hotel guests and staff throughout the seven day period. During this time period, Bill made a momentous impact on a bridal couple, as he prepared the entire original planned menu for their wedding reception without access to his kitchen equipment.
Bill’s hard work and dedication to his job, and his craft are unsurpassed, and is a huge reason that the Westin Huntsville is the only 4-Diamond Hotel in Huntsville and one of just two that are not run by the Alabama Retirement System.
Tourism Promoter of the Year: Charity Stewart, US Space and Rocket Center
Although Charity Stewart’s title is Social Media Manager for the US Space and Rocket Center, I am sure her superiors and Huntsville regard her as artist extraordinaire for her unique abilities to attract visitors to the Center and to Huntsville. Through her leadership and professionalism, traffic to the Space and Rocket Center’s Facebook page has increased by a whopping 172%, and nearly reaches the number of followers on the Girl Scout Facebook site. She is so proficient in social media development that she teaches classes and workshops locally and regionally. Her efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and “Tweet-ups” she has run have brought so much publicity to the Space and Rocket Center and to Huntsville that tourism has prospered in the area as a result of her efforts.
Front of the House Restaurant Employee of the Year, Clayton Garth, Right Way Restaurants
Clayton has been with Right Way Restaurants since 1999, working his way through school, while simultaneously nurturing his growing family. While always exhibiting an infectious smile with a “can-do” positive attitude, Clayton has learned every position at the company. He is always busy and will not be out-hustled, and is frequently seen jogging to and from his vehicle. His attitude is such that if something is not right, he will make sure his customers are happy before he leaves. He has won two “Most Valuable Driver” awards, which is voted on by his peers, and multiple other store and system-wide honors, Clayton Garth is loved and respected by his customers and coworkers alike.
Front of the House Hospitality Employee of the Year, Annie Clifton, The Hotel at Auburn University
Annie Clifton has been a fixture at The Hotel at Auburn University for 21 years, and she consistently displays a commitment to excellence. She not only believes in the culture of service of the hotel, she lives it. Annie works as the PBX operator, directing all of the incoming phone calls to various areas of the hotel. She directs every single incoming call to the hotel, as well as takes every guest's in-house call, and she does it all with a smile. One might think that smiling when on the phone with guests is irrelevant because they cannot see the smile. The guests might not visibly see Annie smiling, but they can most certainly feel her smile radiating to them, letting them know that the employee who is helping them cares about them, and wants to assist them in any way possible. In addition to her warm smile, not a day goes by that you will hear Miss Annie say something encouraging, positive, and upbeat to a guest. No matter what difficulties life might be handing our guests, she always seems to know what to say to guests to let them know that she cares about them, and that things will always get better.
Back of the House Restaurant Employee of the Year: Armas Wilson, Compleat Angler, Daphne, AL
Armas began his journey at Gus’s Italian Restaurant in 1996 but moved to Roussos in 1998 when Gus’s closed. Armas had the pleasure of working under a Frenchmen by the name of Emanuel Thersis who was a master chef in the art of French and Greek cuisine. When Roussos closed 11 years later, Armas joined the Compleat Angler's team. Even though Armas is the Caribbean style Grill Master, he still displays the uncanny ability to add his classically-taught touches. Armas has always led by example and remains a positive figure in the kitchen. Armas is one of our server's favorite cooks and loves him so much they have voted him MVP of the year for two years straight.
Back of the House Hospitality Employee of the Year: George Swan, The Westin Huntsville
George Swan has been an integral part of the team at the Westin since it opened. He came highly recommended from another top hotelier where he had worked for 14 years. He has an infectious smile and an energy level that knows no bounds. He was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and yet never complained and maintained perfect attendance. He is known for his trademark “salute” that energizes all that come into contact with him.
Hospitality Department Manager of the Year, Gosia Sullivan, Westin Huntsville
It’s always nice when you have an employee that is responsible in ensuring your property wins an award, but in Gosia’s case her departments have received many national awards and recognitions under her leadership and direction. In 2011 the Westin was ranked number two out of 1000 properties worldwide in guest satisfaction scores scores for the Starwood Preferred Guest Program. In addition, the Westin front office team for the past two years has been in the top 10 guest satisfaction index scores out of 117 Westin hotels in North America. She has been instrumental in helping the hotel receive a prestigious four diamond award for several years consecutively. She is such an effective trainer that many of her staff have been promoted within the company, and they all espouse her enthusiasm and professionalism.