FRLA honors industry superstars at annual gala

Professionals from US Foods, a Titusville restaurant and a South Florida hotel were all recognized.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) has named its Hospitality Stars of the Industry Hall of Fame winners. The awards honor the best of the best among suppliers, hoteliers, and restaurateurs.

“The Hall of Fame recognition is one of FRLA’s most prestigious tributes, celebrating industry icons for their enduring commitment and remarkable contributions to the world of hospitality spanning decades,” FRLA President and CEO Carol Dover said.

“These awards honor distinguished leaders whose legacies have left an enduring mark on Florida’s vibrant hospitality landscape, and we are incredibly proud of these inductees.”

US Foods Area President Pat Monile, of Tampa, was named Supplier of the Year at the awards presentation at the FRLA annual gala Wednesday. Monile has worked for US Foods for more than 30 years.

Prior to serving as Area President, Monile was the Division President for 10 years, and previously held various management positions, including vice president of sales, regional sales manager and district manager. US Foods has more than 300,000 operations across the country and helps chefs and operators thrive in the restaurant industry with innovative foods, business tools, services and industry expertise.

Eduardo Fernandez, general manager for Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, was named Hotelier of the Year. Fernandez has more than 25 years of leadership experience as general manager and various corporate roles across brands and management companies, including Davidson Hospitality Group, Sonesta Hotels & Brands and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

He has served on boards for the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, FRLA and the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Alliance. He currently serves on the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and Hollywood Beach Business Association boards. Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort is a destination resort and entertainment complex located on the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk.

The FRLA Restaurateur of the Year award went to Laurilee Thompson, co-owner of Dixie Crossroads, a southern seafood restaurant with international name recognition. The restaurant’s menu features locally caught seafood. Thompson worked in commercial fishing for decades and has experience in Florida’s hospitality industry and environmental advocacy.

As a teenager, she ran blue crab traps and used gillnetting for mullet in the Indian River Lagoon. She also worked on the back deck of a rock shrimp trawler. Thompson has an associate degree in Oceanographic Technology from the Florida Institute of Technology, which she earned in 1974 before becoming captain of a commercial long-line boat targeting swordfish and tuna in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

Thompson’s parents opened Dixie Crossroads in 1983 as a 30-seat diner serving meals on paper plates. Today, it seats 465 patrons and partners with Wild Ocean Seafood Market and Cape Canaveral Shrimp Company to ensure the restaurant serves the best local wild-caught shrimp.

Thompson is an FRLA and Merritt Island Wildlife Association board member, and a trustee for Hubbs Sea World Research Institute. She’s also an appointed member to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Management Board, Save Our Indian River Lagoon Citizen Oversight Committee and the Titusville Environmental Commission, which she chairs. She previously served on the Brevard County Tourist Development Council representing eco-tourism and is the founder of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.

The FRLA is a statewide nonprofit representing Florida’s hospitality industry. It has more than 10,000 members, including hoteliers, restaurateurs, franchises, theme parks and suppliers. The group’s mission is to protect and promote Florida’s nearly $112 billion hospitality industry, which employs 1.3 million workers.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


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