They've mostly conducted their careers outside the media glare that shines on the full-service restaurant industry, but Jonathan Bennett and Michael Hislop are in the spotlight now. Each has been named a recipient of a prestigious 2010 Silver Plate Award by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA). Bennett claimed his honor in the Independent Restaurant category, while Hislop won his for the Chain Full Service/Multi-Unit Concept Operators division.
Bennett got his start in suburban Cleveland at white tablecloth spot Moxie, The Restaurant. Hired as sous chef in 1997, he quickly rose to become executive chef/partner, a post he still holds today. He added to his duties in 2005 by becoming executive chef at Moxie's sister concept, Red, The Steakhouse, also in Cleveland suburb Beachwood. Both operations have gained national profiles under his leadership, with Red being named one of America's best steakhouses by publications ranging from Playboy to Esquire.
Bennett also designed the menu when Red, The Steakhouse opened a second unit in Miami's South Beach. Like the Cleveland operation, this restaurant soon attracted national attention.
Hislop became president and chief operating officer of the 21-unit full -service chain Il Fornaio in 1995. The concept positions itself as a casual restaurant where premium-quality regional Italian cuisine is augmented by in-house bakeries that produce authentic Italian baked goods. Il Fornaio also operates two upper-end Italian restaurants under the Canaletto flag. Hislop became chairman and chief executive officer in 2001.
He added to his duties in 2006, becoming chief executive officer of Corner Bakery Café. Hislop has led that chain from a company owned model to a franchise operation, a move with has greatly strengthened the concept.
Prior to heading these two successful bakery café chains, Hislop was chairman and chief executive officer for Chevys Mexican Restaurants. His early career featured stops at El Torito Mexican Restaurants and T.G.I. Friday's.
Bennett and Hislop will pick up their awards during IFMA's 56th annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration in Chicago. The gala is scheduled for May 24 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.