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The International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) presented food-away-from-home's highest honor, the Gold Plate Award, to Jessica Shelly of Cincinnati Public Schools

CHICAGO, May 21, 2023—Jessica Shelly, Director, Student Dining Services, Cincinnati Public Schools received the coveted 2023 IFMA Gold Plate Award from the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA) at the close of their 69th Annual Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration. Shelly was nominated in the “Elementary & Secondary Schools” category by P&G Professional and Nestlé Professional and selected from the nine honorees who took home 2023 Silver Plate awards.


The Gold Plate has not been awarded in the "Elementary & Secondary Schools" category since 1994, making Shelly the first individual to win the top honor in 29 years.


The Gold & Silver Plate Awards is the longest-running and most respected awards program in foodservice. Each year, a distinguished jury of industry experts weighs the merits of candidates who represent the best in the industry. Winners receive the Silver Plate Award and one is then chosen by secret ballot to receive the Gold Plate Award for overall industry excellence.


Past Gold Plate winners include Danny Meyer (2000), Van Eure (2004), Charlie Trotter (2008), Timothy J. Dietzler (2010), Wolfgang Puck (2017), Regynald G. Washington (2019), Phil Hickey (2020), Antionette Watkins (2021), and Lance Trenary (2022).


Shelly was lauded at the awards ceremony by her mentor, Chief Operating Officer of Cincinnati Public Schools, Chris Burkhardt who told the attending crowd that Shelly “has right-sized, trained, led, coached, strategized, and innovated to become one of the most respected K-12 directors in the country. But that is not why she is here tonight. She has an unwavering focus on improving outcomes for students in and out of the classroom. Period.”


In accepting the Gold Plate, Shelly thanked her husband, three sons, and team. She went on to express her gratitude to the food manufacturers who made up the majority of event attendees. “You here tonight are the reason I can feed my kids nutritious meals every day – because you’re so dedicated to your businesses. Thank you for helping me nourish our future.”


As Director of Student Dining Services for Cincinnati Public Schools, Shelly is responsible for overseeing the service of over 60,000 meals each day at 67 schools. She is a trailblazer in the area of school nutrition with unique implementations such as salad bars and cultural spice stations in every school, reimbursable meal vending machines, a clean label initiative, and a local, small business, minority-owned purchasing focus.



In addition to Shelly, 2023 Silver Plate recipients and the companies that nominated them are:


  • Dickie Brennan, Owner & Managing Partner, Dickie Brennan & Company – awarded in the Independent Restaurants category, nominated by Nestlé Professional
  • David Deno, CEO, Bloomin’ Brands – recognized in the category of Chain Full Service, nominated by Ecolab
  • Sharon Eliatamby, Senior Project Manager, The World Bank Group – awarded in the Business & Industry/Foodservice Management category, nominated by PepsiCo
  • Jill Horst, Executive Director, Campus Dining, University of California, Santa Barbara – for Colleges & Universities, nominated by BSI, Hobart, and Nestlé Professional
  • Chef Max Knoepfel, Executive Chef, Music City Center – for the category of Travel & Leisure, nominated by Basic American Foods
  • Rob Lynch, President & CEO, Papa John’s International - for Chain Limited Service, nominated by PepsiCo
  • Mendy Meriwether, Director, Fresh Food & Beverage, Wawa – for the Grocery, Convenience, & Specialty Retail category, nominated by Tyson Foodservice
  • Randall J Sparrow, Director, Food & Environmental Services, ProHealth Care – for Healthcare, nominated by PepsiCo and Ecolab


“The nine honorees in the 2023 IFMA Gold & Silver Plate class are inspiring,” said Phil Kafarakis, IFMA President & CEO. “They come from diverse backgrounds and yet share a similar dedication to improving the lives of their teams and communities. Hearing from their mentors during our awards ceremony – something we added this year – also brought home the knowledge that we all benefit from the wisdom and counsel of those that came before us. IFMA’s 2023 Gold & Silver Plate Awards were phenomenal, we look forward to hosting again next year for the 70th awards celebration!”


IFMA’s black-tie celebration for the 2023 Silver Plate Class and presentation of the Gold Plate Award was held at the historic Chicago Union Station Great Hall on Saturday, May 20. The event was emceed by past award winner, Regynald Washington (Gold Plate honoree, 2019), and attended by several hundred food-away-from-home leaders and luminaries.


The 2024 Gold & Silver Plate Awards Celebration will be held on Saturday, May 18, 2024.


Learn more about the 2023 Silver Plate Class >>