Former Chicago Tribune dining critic Phil Vettel was among the awardees recognized at the Illinois Restaurant Association's 2021 annual meeting, earning a lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the city's culinary community.

Vettel served as the Tribune's restaurant critic for more than three decades before leaving his longtime position in January. An IRA news release praised the "boundless curiosity and integrity" of Vettel's restaurant reviews, as well as his editorials spotlighting the "moments of innovation, success, or - in more recent times - tribulation" in the Chicago restaurant industry.

Other 2021 IRA award winners include former IRA chairman Gregory Schulson, CEO of Burrito Beach and Lunan Corporation, who was named Restaurateur of the Year for his leadership and commitment to the restaurant industry; Gordon Foodservice, Performance Foodservice, SYSCO and US Foods, recipients of the Vendor of the Year for their generosity during the COVID-19 pandemic; and Mariano's, which earned the Sara Rowe ProStart Company of the Year award for its support of the IRA's Hospitality Employee Relief Fund and ProStart Program.

The IRA also announced Sam Sanchez, CEO and founder of Third Coast Hospitality Group, will serve as the association's new board chairman, taking over the role previously held by Schulson. 

“As we look to the future, we are honored to work alongside Sam Sanchez as the IRA’s new Chairman,” IRA President and CEO Sam Toia said in an association news release. “As the first Mexican-American to step into this role, his story is one of resilience, hard work, and passion. As restaurants begin to slowly reopen, his vision and expertise in entrepreneurship will prove to be invaluable on the long road to recovery.”

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