DEERFIELD – When Edgar Garcia began working as a dishwasher in eighth grade, he never imagined that at 24 he’d win the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association (IHLA) Suburban Food & Beverage Employee of the Year Award.
Each year the IHLA awards the outstanding accomplishments, service and leadership of IHLA member hotel employees in the hospitality and lodging industry at their Stars of the Industry Event.
Garcia, the sous-chef (second in command) at the Embassy Suites Chicago-North Shore/Deerfield Hotel, was caught off guard by the nomination.
“I didn’t know that I was a finalist until the day of the luncheon, and my hands didn’t stop shaking until I received the award,” said Garcia. “I thought other people from our hotel deserved it more than I did.”
This year marked the 20th Anniversary of the Stars of the Industry Awards. The Chicagoland Regional Luncheon on November 1 featured a welcome speech by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Awards were presented in 11 different categories to individuals from the Central Illinois, Chicago and Suburban Chicago regions.
When Garcia began working at his parents’ restaurant at 13, he was fascinated by his mom’s cooking. Garcia said he enjoys cooking everything and has no specialties.
Years later, Garcia followed his dad to Monastero’s Restaurant in Chicago.
“Monastero’s was in business for 55 years and they taught me everything there,” said Garcia. “I worked the last week Monastero’s was open, and it was a nice send-off for them and especially for me, because they were a big part of my career.”
Garcia worked as a banquet dishwasher, prep cook, a cook and a server.
Then about two and a half years ago, Garcia heard about a job opening from his uncle who is also an Embassy Suites employee.
“The hotel industry is a completely different corporate side that I enjoy being in, instead of a family owned restaurant,” said Garcia.
After winning the IHSL regional competition, Garcia will soon be entering a statewide competition.
Garcia said the walk up to the stage on November 1 when he received his IHSL award was “pretty awesome.” He cherishes the small plaque that has his name imprinted on it, and is honored to be asked to compete in the State Stars of the Industry & Membership Holiday Luncheon.
Garcia splurged at the regional competition by purchasing a tie for the event, and looks forward to adding to his tie collection.
The State Stars of the Industry & Membership Holiday Luncheon will be held on December 14 at Embassy Suites Chicago Downtown Magnificent Mile, where winners from the regional level will compete for State level awards. Steve Baskerville, meteorologist/weather anchor for CBS Chicago 2, will be the emcee.
The IHLA will also be collecting gently used, or new, winter coats, scarves and mittens at the luncheon for those in need, as part of their annual Cold Hands, Warm Hearts donation program. In conjunction with the Chicago Police Department Community Relations Division and Domestic Violence Programs, these items will be distributed to those in need, according to a press release.
For more information visit: http://www.illinoishotels.org/ .