5 local culinary stars to be inducted into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame

List includes Meeru Dhalwala of Vij's and Project CHEF's Barb Finley

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      The BC Restaurant Hall of Fame will induct five Lower Mainland restaurant and food professionals this fall.

      Receiving the province’s highest honour for hospitality professionals are Susan Mendelson (the Lazy Gourmet), Meeru Dhalwala (Vij’s and Rangoli restaurants), Barb Finley (Project CHEF Education Society), Frank di Benedetto (FDF Brandz), and Bruce Fox (Browns Restaurant Group).

      They’ll be honoured at a gala event on October 7 at the Italian Cultural Centre.  

      As chef-owner of one of Vancouver’s first catering companies, the Lazy Gourmet’s Mendelson has written multiple cookbooks, including Mama Never Cooked Like This (her first) and the Official Cookbook of Expo 86. A former social worker, she’s credited with popularizing the Nanaimo bar.

      Dhalwala, co-owner and chef of Vij’s and Rangoli restaurants, runs one of the few kitchens staffed entirely by women in the entire province. Born in India and raised in Washington, DC, she has a Master’s degree in development studies and is co-author of several cookbooks. She's also the creator and chair of the Joy of Feeding, an intergenerational food festival and fundraiser for UBC Farm that celebrates home-cooked dishes from around the world. Dhalwala is being recognized for her excellence as a chef and mentor.

      Finley has forged a culinary and educational career out of her dedication to instilling in local kids and families a love of cooking and sharing nutritious meals through Project CHEF (which stands for Cook Healthy Edible Food). A former school teacher, she trained at Dubrulle Culinary Institute and worked at various Vancouver and Whistler restaurants before devoting her time to helping children learn about, appreciate, and prepare wholesome ingredients.

      Di Benedetto operates more than 175 locations of Ricky’s Family Restaurants, FatBurger, Famoso Pizzeria, and ABC Family Restaurants as owner of FDF Brandz. Having started out at McDonald’s in Prince George in 1969, he’s being acknowledged for his commitment to innovation and development.

      Fox is vice-president of business development for Browns Restaurant Group, which has more than 75 locations. He previously worked at Boston Pizza, Opa! of Greece Souvlaki, and Good Earth Café.

      Food professionals from other parts of B.C. are being inducted as well. Ronald St. Pierre, owner and chef of Locals Restaurant on Vancouver Island, is being honoured as a Local Champion. The late Gary Hynes, former editor and publisher of Victoria's EAT Magazine, where he worked for 19 years, is being posthumously inducted as a Friend of the Industry.

      Manuel Ferreira owns Miradoro Restaurant at the Okanagan’s Tinhorn Creek Winery and former owner of Le Gavroche (Vancouver). Summerhill Pyramid Winery founder Stephen Cipes gets a Local Champion nod for his dedication to sustainability and organic architecture.

      The British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association launched the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame--the only such body in Canada--in 2004.

      The gala kicks off with a cocktail reception and will feature food and wine. Tickets, $199, and more information are available at bcrfahalloffame.com/.