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Meet Joe Essa, President and CEO of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. Joe received the 2020 Silver Plate Award in the Independent Restaurants/Multi-concept category, and was nominated by Ecolab and Nestlé Professional.

Watch the 2020 Awards >>


Winner Video

This video is brought to you with the support of Nestlé Professional and Ecolab


Live Conversation

Watch IFMA's live conversation with Joe Essa, President & CEO of Thomas Keller Restaurant Group. Joe received the 2020 Silver Plate Award in the Independent Restaurants/Multi-Concept category. Hear Joe's story and learn what drives one of the nation’s top foodservice operators.


Interview: What Drives the Nation's Top Foodservice Operators?

We asked the 2020 Silver Plate Class to share some perspectives and words of wisdom with the industry. Find out what they have to say about their passion for foodservice, career accomplishments and what it means to be part of a legendary group of operators.


How did you get your start in the foodservice industry?

I started washing dishes at my father’s restaurant, the Golden Skillet in Greensboro, NC (my hometown). I went off to college and was a CPA for six years before becoming involved with another restaurant and have never looked back.

What do you enjoy most about your career in foodservice?

I truly appreciate the opportunities we have to forge relationships with our teams, guests and colleagues. It’s this relationship-based approach that I enjoy the most.

Tell us about your biggest career accomplishment.

Being welcomed into the National Restaurant Association family, and then, becoming its Chair.

How is your segment making a difference for the foodservice industry?

We make a difference because we prioritize staff development and career advancement. It gives me great pleasure to be able to learn from and mentor those in our profession – and then to be able to watch them as they continue to grow and develop their own career path. Nurturing guests is also how we make a difference.

What advice do you have for someone new to the foodservice industry?

You must make sure you have the drive and passion for our profession. You have to be willing to commit, work hard, and keep an open mindset because every day is a new experience.

What does being an IFMA Silver Plate recipient mean to you?

It’s a humbling experience being recognized by thoughtful changemakers. I am very grateful to be included in this community. IFMA represents such an important part of the restaurant industry and through the association, I have grained great insights. Thank you for this recognition.

What is your favorite meal?

My mother’s Mulukhiyah (a Lebanese dish made with Jute leaves and chicken and eaten with rice). She’s 87 and still makes it for me whenever I visit.