The Beacon Award

The word Beacon symbolizes many things including a person that illuminates or inspires. 

The Beacon Award, presented on behalf of The Foodservice Council for Women and The Food Shows, was created to recognize a woman leader who has truly served as a Beacon for our industry through her leadership, contributions, and inspiration.




Kathleen Blake, Chef/Owner at The Rusty Spoon

Iowa native Kathleen Blake started cooking at an early age in her grandmother's kitchen where she helped prepare Sunday Suppers for her large extended family. Staying true to her path, Blake worked in restaurants during high school and then moved out West to attend the Community College of San Francisco's Culinary Apprenticeship Program.

After working in several restaurants, Blake landed at Square One, where her mentor Joyce Goldstein, taught her the importance of focusing on quality ingredients, prepared simply. Goldstein also mentored Blake on the art of building personal relationships with purveyors. This strong foundation served her well as she worked her way through several smaller restaurants around the country before accepting a position with Drew Nieporent's The Steelhead Grill in Pittsburgh, PA. In 2001, Blake accepted the position as Sous Chef at Restaurant Nora in Washington, DC.; the first certified organic restaurant in the US, where she was quickly promoted to Chef de Cuisine.

In 2003, Blake was recruited as Chef de Cuisine, opening Melissa Kelly's Primo in Orlando at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes. She began working with local farmers, organizing a cooperative that eventually grew to support many of the restaurants in Orlando. She and her husband, William Blake, built and maintained the organic garden at Primo Orlando until 2011. As strong life and business partners, the couple went out on their own to open Orlando's The Rusty Spoon, in the downtown Church Street Historic District; earning 7 Silver Spoon awards in 2014 after being open for only 3 years. The Rusty Spoon was voted the 'best farm to table' restaurant hands down, and critics even credit Blake for being famous for that 'farm to table' tagline long before it was cool. Her focus continues to be on locally sourced food, simply prepared, in a comfortable environment. Blake was also a James Beard Award semifinalist for the best chef in the South in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017;  2013 Best Chefs America Southern Region, and nominated for both Golden Whisk and Community Service Awards by Women Chefs & Restauranteurs.

Since its founding in 1993, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs has worked to promote and advance female professionals in the culinary industry. Blake ran the scholarship program for the organization for 13 years. In 2017, she launched Pioneers & Legends, a Central Florida fundraiser celebrating and supporting the James Beard Foundation's work in advancing women in the culinary industry.

Kathleen Blake, Chef/Owner at The Rusty Spoon


Jilly Stephens, CEO, City Harvest

Jilly Stephens, CEO, City Harvest

Jilly Stephens has lead City Harvest’s efforts to feed hungry New Yorkers since 2006. She oversees the organization’s work to deliver rescued food to 500 soup kitchens, food pantries and other community food programs in New York City - free of charge and focused on ensuring that high-need communities receive more fresh produce. Under her leadership, City Harvest has put in place strategic programs that address the links between poverty, hunger, and diet-related diseases within geographically defined neighborhoods of New York City while meeting the immediate need for food throughout the five boroughs.

Jilly was instrumental in the creation and expansion of Healthy Neighborhoods, an extension of City Harvest’s anti-hunger work designed to respond to the need for emergency food, improve access to fruits and vegetables for residents in low-income communities and provide nutrition education to inspire affordable, healthy meal choices. In addition, she oversaw the planning and opening of City Harvest’s Food Rescue Facility warehouse and distribution center in Long Island City, NY which has allowed annual food deliveries to increase from nearly 20 million pounds in FY06 to 55 million pounds in FY16. From FY11 to FY16, City Harvest doubled its total revenue from approximately $61.1 million to $124.7 million.

Jilly joined City Harvest as Senior Director of Program Development in 2004, where she was key to the growth of City Harvest’s nutrition education programs and launch of “Fruit Bowl”, which provides healthy snacks to children on an ongoing basis.

Prior to joining City Harvest, Jilly served as the Vice President of Program Operations at ORBIS International, an $80+ million nonprofit organization dedicated to the elimination of avoidable blindness through hands-on surgical training and education.

A native of Great Britain, Jilly and her three children make their home in Brooklyn, NY.

Carol B. Dover, President & CEO, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

Carol B. Dover, President & CEO, Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

2017 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show Honoree 

Carol B. Dover has served as President/CEO of the more than 10,000 member Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) since July of 1995. Dover is a professional association manager, a lobbyist, a former government insider, and a Florida State University Dedman School of Hospitality graduate with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

After graduating from Florida State University in 1978, Dover accepted the position of Assistant Director of the Beer Industry of Florida. This position familiarized her with the rules, regulations and tax laws associated with the beverage industry – information which has been beneficial in her role with FRLA.

In 1989, Dover moved inside the halls of the Florida Capitol and was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff, Executive Office of the Governor, serving under the Martinez administration. As Bob Martinez’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Dover was responsible for the Governor’s appointments, served as his spokesperson, and represented his administration before the Florida Legislature.

Dover’s other professional accomplishments include positions at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Director of the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, the first woman to serve as Chief of the Bureau of Fire Prevention, State Fire Marshall’s Office, and President/CEO of the Florida Outdoor Advertising Association.

As the FRLA’s President/CEO, Dover works to protect, educate, and promote the diverse interests of Florida’s hospitality industry before the Florida Legislature and lobbying against unfair government regulation. The industry represents a $108.8 billion industry, $11.3 billion in local and state tax revenue, and nearly 1.4 million employees, making it the state’s number one industry.

She also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Restaurant Association, Council of State Restaurant Associations, International Society of Hotel Association Executives, VISIT FLORIDA, Florida State University College of Business Board of Governors, Florida TaxWatch and the Florida Agriculture Center and Horse Park.

On opening day of the 2003 Legislative Session, Dover was diagnosed with breast cancer and courageously fought to beat the cancer. Dover, a native of Orlando, is married and has three children and three grandchildren. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities including dressage riding and running.

Kelli Valade, President, Chili’s® Grill & Bar

Kelli Valade, President, Chili’s® Grill & Bar

2016 Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo Honoree 

Kelli Valade currently serves as President of Chili’s® Grill & Bar. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing all aspects of domestic restaurant operations, marketing, franchising and PeopleWorks for the brand. 

Kelli has been with Brinker International since 1996, holding various positions including Director of Human Resources for On The Border Mexican Grill & Cantina®, Vice President of Corporate Human Resources and Senior Vice President of PeopleWorks for Chili’s and On The Border and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Chili’s. In 2016, Kelli’s passion for operational excellence and deep understanding of the business led to her promotion to President of Chili’s. 

Edna Morris, Managing Director, Axum Capital Partners

Edna Morris, Managing Director, Axum Capital Partners

2016 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show Honoree 

Edna Morris has over 35 years of leadership experience in the food and beverage industry and 6 years with Cummins Engine Company. Currently, Edna is Managing Director of Axum Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused on early childhood education and restaurants. She leads the restaurant practice for the firm, which recently completed the acquisition of Wild Wing Café. Additionally, Edna is chief executive officer and partner in Range Restaurant Group, with 2 CityRange restaurants in upstate South Carolina. 


Since 2004, Edna has served as a Director of Tractor Supply Company (TSCO), where she chairs the Compensation Committee and is a member of the Governance Committee.  Additionally, Edna served on the Board of Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (BAGL), serving on the Compensation Committee and chairing the Nominating and Governance Committee until the close of a successful sale of the company in November, 2014.  Previously, Edna served on the Boards of Cosi, Inc. and the Culinary Institute of America.

Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, Television Personality

Sara Moulton, Chef, Cookbook Author, Television Personality

2016 International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of NY Honoree 

Sara Moulton, nationally recognized chef, television host, author and educator has had an esteemed and illustrious career spanning over three decades. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Sara spent seven years working in restaurants throughout the US and Europe, including a stint at La Tulipe in New York City, before leaving the kitchen in favor of recipe-testing and development.  Sara’s TV career began in 1979 when she was hired to work behind the scenes on public television's “Julia Child & More Company.”  Her mentorship and close relationship with Julia Child eventually led to a position at “Good Morning America,” where what began as a behind-the-scenes position grew into her on-camera role as food editor, a position she held for over a decade. In 1997, Sara started working at the Food Network, hosting “Cooking Live” and later “Sara’s Secrets,” which ran through 2005. Sara is also the author of several cookbooks including Sara Moulton Cooks at Home (2002), Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals (2005), Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners (2010) and a fourth cookbook scheduled for release in the spring of 2016. The latest milestone in her pioneering career includes the debut of the fourth season of public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals,” her newest cooking show focused around her true passion of helping home cooks get dinner on the table each night. The fifth seasons of “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” will premier in the fall of 2015.

Sara is also the founder of the New York Women's Culinary Alliance, an "old girl's network" designed to help women culinary professionals, which she founded in 1981.