We’re Still Blushing :: Stars of the Industry Awards

(AMFF) 2017 GNHA Stars of the Industry Winners

(L-R) Ryan Blainey, Rachel Layton, Ben Stepp, Donnie Counts, Claire Crowell, Noe Martinez, Andy and Jan Marshall

Proud parent {company} moment, y’all! The Greater Nashville Hospitality Association (GNHA) recently honored several winners from A. Marshall Family Foods at its annual Stars of the Industry luncheon. Our family-owned restaurant and hospitality group collected five (yes, five!) awards at the ceremony, which recognized the best and brightest stars in the Nashville hospitality and tourism industries.

Our CEO Andy Marshall said it best:

“It is a true honor to be recognized by our local hospitality association. Our team is more than deserving, and I’m proud to be part of a company of people who put such care and effort into their work. With these awards comes a responsibility to continue to serve our community well, and we take that seriously.”

Without further ado, here’s the rundown of our company’s superstars and the awards they earned!

Claire Crowell, chief operating officer of A. Marshall Family Foods (and major girl boss!), received the GNHA Women in Tourism & Hospitality Leader of the Year award. The daughter of Andy Marshall, she grew up in the restaurant business and climbed the ranks throughout her teen years and early adulthood, from server to general manager to the position she currently holds today.

As COO, she manages operations of our 12 restaurants and hospitality concepts, including five locations of Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant; Puckett’s Boat House; Puckett’s Trolley; Homestead Manor; Scout’s Pub; two locations of Hattie Jane’s Creamery; and our company’s newest venture, Deacon’s New South, which will open late fall 2017 in downtown Nashville.

Claire is actively involved in various industry organizations, serving in leadership roles for several of them, including the DISTRICT organization in downtown Nashville and the city’s independent restaurant association, the Nashville Originals. She is known as a leader in the community, an authority in the hospitality industry and a mentor to many.

Independent Restaurant Manager of the Year was awarded to Ben Stepp, general manager of Puckett’s Gro. & Restaurant in Columbia. From his start as general manager in 2015, Ben and his staff have set standards and expectations to excel, which made 2016 a banner year for our Columbia location. In fact, the restaurant’s profits have increased so much under Ben’s management that we recently announced that we’d extend our Sunday closing time in Columbia from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.!

“My job is easier because of the ownership Ben takes,” Claire said. “With Puckett’s under his leadership in Columbia, I’ve been able to take a step back so that I’m able to spend more time focusing on the company as a whole.”

Noe Martinez received the Independent Restaurant Employee of the Year award. Employed at Puckett’s Gro. in both downtown Nashville and downtown Franklin, Noe didn’t speak any English when he moved to Nashville from Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2008. He applied with A. Marshall Family Foods on the advice of his brother who had worked for us, and he now works for one of our restaurants during the day and the other at night.

Regarded as “the best employee I have ever had” by Ryan Blainey, general manager of Puckett’s in downtown Nashville, Noe is committed to learning English and spends much of his free time studying the language with his wife and two young daughters. Despite being offered a server role as well as the opportunity to advance into management, Noe has chosen to remain in his position as a busser until he feels prepared for more responsibility.

“It’s been proven to me that if you work hard, you can be anything you want to be,” he said. “Because of my job, I am able to buy a car, a house, and support my family and I continue to work to grow more and more. You just don’t have that chance in Mexico.”

Donnie Counts, Executive Chef of Harvest at Homestead Manor, was named Chef of the Year at the awards ceremony. Donnie brings more than 15 years of experience to his role, drawing on culinary influences from the many different places he’s worked, including Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado and South Carolina. He joined the A. Marshall Family Foods team in 2014 and held multiple positions at its restaurants before taking on current role at Harvest. He recently developed a new menu at Harvest — featuring creative dishes such as root-beer-braised short rib and a grilled elk filet — which has been met with positive feedback from the restaurant’s guests!

“It’s been wonderful having Donnie at the helm of several of our concepts,” said Claire. “His passion, knowledge and creativity are huge assets to our brand and to our guests.”

A true team player, Donnie views his position as an opportunity to grow as both a chef and a teammate, and he credits the entire staff for providing a guest with a positive meal and experience.

Funds 4 Food — a campaign run by the Puckett’s Gro. team in downtown Nashville to benefit Middle Tennessee residents struggling with hunger — received the GNHA Gold Star Public Relations Award for Community Service.

We launched the month-long fundraiser at our 5th & Church location in April 2017, resulting in a $10,000 donation to Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee that provided approximately 40,000 meals to those in need. The donation was raised by our diners who generously added an extra $1 to their total bills and a matching contribution by A. Marshall Family Foods.

“It was really rewarding to share the Funds 4 Food Project with the Nashville community this year,” said Rachel Layton, our director of marketing who spearheaded the initiative. “This town does a great job caring for the needy and this project was simply an extension of those efforts.”

Each of these winners will automatically be nominated for the Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association awards, which will be announced at a gala in the fall. The next time you see one of our amazing winners, be sure to give him or her a pat on the back!