Geren, others from area to be honored by Texas Restaurant Association

2021 Texas Restaurant Association Hall of Honor Inductees

Fort Worth and that most Texan of cooking styles – barbecue – will be honored as part of the Texas Restaurant Association’s 2021 Hall of Honor. Others from the area being honored include a culinary arts teacher for the Fort Worth ISD and a general manager for a high-profile Fort Worth restaurant.

Restaurateurs Charlie Geren, owner of Railhead Smokehouse in Fort Worth, Mark Davis Bailey, owner of the Original Pancake House DFW in Dallas, and Creed Ford III (posthumously) of Ford Restaurant Group in Austin will be inducted this year into TRA’s Hall of Honor.

The inductees will be among those recognized during the Texas Restaurant Awards at the Lone Star Bash on Sunday, July 11 at the Brisco Western Art Museum in San Antonio. The Lone Star Bash is part of a weekend of events surrounding TRA Marketplace, the largest industry trade show and educational conference in the southwestern United States that regularly brings in 5,000 or more attendees. It is also the nation’s only in-person foodservice expo of its kind in 2021.

Induction into the Hall of Honor is the most prestigious recognition the association can bestow. Qualifications are rigorous – nominees must have been an active TRA member for a minimum of 15 years and demonstrate superior business ethics and leadership within the industry. Nominees must also have helped to build the image of the Texas food service industry overall.

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Here’s what the TRA has to say about the honorees:

Charlie Geren is a barbecue pitmaster, rancher, and Texas State Representative. He and the Geren family are proud residents of Tarrant County, where he serves as the President of the Railhead Smokehouse, a staple in Fort Worth. First elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2000, Charlie currently serves as the Chairman of the Local and Consent Calendars Committee. He has long been a supporter of small businesses and the positive impact they have on the local economy. Throughout his legislative career, he has also championed public safety, property rights, and natural resources issues. Charlie also serves his community as a trustee of Texas Christian University and as Vice President of the Southwestern Exposition & Livestock Show.

Mark Davis Bailey, owner of the Original Pancake House-DFW, got his first taste of foodservice while working in the student cafeterias at Texas Tech University, eventually becoming Student Manager of the largest unit on campus. As an undergraduate, Mark founded an investment club with an investment in the Original Pancake House, opening their second restaurant in 1989. In 2001, Mark became President/CEO of OPH–DFW. The group now has eight locations, and each one has staff who boast of Mark’s generosity and servant leadership. Mark is a practitioner and evangelist for conscious capitalism and believes that restaurants with a higher purpose can make an impact on their communities and world. He is a past president of the Greater Dallas Chapter and State Board of the Texas Restaurant Association and continues to serve both as emeritus.

Creed Ford III was a restaurateur with a long history of leadership and mentorship in the industry. Before his untimely passing in 2018, he was the Co-Chief Executive Officer for Fired Up, Inc. and a president of Ford Restaurant Group. During his 43-year career, Ford was involved with numerous restaurant concepts either through ownership, as an operator, or as an investor. From being part of restaurant startups, public offerings, acquisitions, re-branding and restructuring, Ford saw the industry through many stages and situations. He is a former Chairman of the Texas Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (now the Texas Restaurant Foundation), and served on the board of Nolan Ryan Beef Company, TC4 Restaurant Company, and Little Woodrow’s Inc. His son, Creed Ford IV, also an accomplished restaurateur, will accept the award on his behalf.

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“The three honorees this year exemplify leadership and hospitality,” said Dr. Emily Williams Knight, President and CEO of the TRA. “It is a huge honor for the Texas Restaurant Association to recognize these distinguished leaders for their contributions to their communities, families, and the industry at large. Please join me in acknowledging their efforts and impact.”

The winners will be announced at the Lone Star Bash on Sunday, July 11 at the Brisco Western Art Museum in San Antonio. The Lone Star Bash is part of a weekend of events surrounding TRA Marketplace, the largest industry trade show and educational conference in the southwestern United States that regularly brings in 5,000 or more attendees. 

In addition to the Hall of Honor inductees, other awards presented at the event include the Texas Restaurateur of the Year, the Rising Star Award presented by Savory Restaurant Fund, the Deep in the Heart Award, the Educator Excellence Award presented by Texas Beef Council, and the Carmelo Mauro Spirit of Generosity Award. Award winners are chosen by a mix of staff, board members, sponsors, and TRA members, and will be announced at the Lone Star Bash.

Russell Kirkpatrick, general manager of Fort Worth’s Reata is one of the finalists for the Texas Restaurateur of the Year Award.

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That’s not all the honors received by those involved in the culinary arts honored by the TRA. The Texas Restaurant Foundation (TRF) announced earlier that Natasha Bruton has won the Educator Excellence Award, presented by Texas Beef Council. Bruton has been a culinary teacher in the Fort Worth Independent School District for 14 years and a ProStart educator for more than ten years.  

The Educator Excellence Award is presented by TRF to an educator who has made significant contributions to culinary education through both an unwavering dedication to their students and a strong presence in their community. 

“Educators like Natasha can make a huge impact on students’ lives and their future careers,” said Chef Patrick Costello, Chef Instructor for the Department of Tourism, Hospitality, and Culinary Arts at St. Philips College and Chairman of the Texas Restaurant Foundation. “We are grateful for her compassion and dedication to her students and proud to present her with this award.” 

Her students have consistently advanced to state and national competitions as well as continued their education at prestigious hospitality schools. In 2015, Bruton adopted one of her students who found himself homeless during his senior year. He went on to finish high school, earn a diploma, gain certifications, and attend culinary school.  

“Some of the best moments of my life have happened in this kitchen, practicing ProStart menus with these students, and traveling all over Texas just to show them that the world needs them in our industry,” said Bruton. “The memories I have made with these kids are what makes my life complete.” 

The award package includes complimentary registration to the annual Culinary Educators Training Conference, $1,000 to use toward her Texas ProStart program, travel and registration to TRA Marketplace as well as a crystal trophy.  

Here are the finalists for several of the awards:

The finalists for the Deep in the Heart Award are: 

Harlan Scott (Industry – San Marcos)

Sanif Maredia (MESS Waffles – College Station)

Gina Sellers (The Knife and Cork – Gatesville)

The finalists for the Rising Star Award, presented by Savory Restaurant Fund, are:

Harlan Scott (Industry – San Marcos)

Angela Mancino (Woerner Warehouse, Sunset Grill, Granite House – Fredericksburg)

Creed Ford IV and Tony Ciola (The League Kitchen, Tony C’s, Mighty Fine Burgers – Austin) 

The third new award for 2021 is the Texas Restaurateur of the Year Award. The finalists for this award come from the pool of Outstanding Restaurateur Awards, chosen by their chapter. The Outstanding Restaurateur and finalists for the Texas Restaurateur of the Year Award are: 

Luis and Rita Barragan (Casa Chapala – Austin)

May Nardone (Mikel May’s Beachside Bar and Grill – Coastal Bend)

Lloyd Nichols (The Diner – East Texas)

Mike Dean (Yaga’s Presents – Galveston)

Jimmy Contreras (Taco y Vino – Dallas)

Masroor Fatany (The Halal Guys – Houston)

Bob Bratcher (Daddy Bob’s BBQ – North Texas)

Jessica Delgado (Salome – Rio Grande Valley)

Rosa Hogeda Torrez (Original Henry’s Diner – San Angelo)

Russell Kirkpatrick (Reata – Tarrant County)

Chris Berry (River Smith’s – Lubbock)