HospitalityMaine recently held its first awards night to honor outstanding members of the state’s restaurant and lodging industry, and to distribute scholarships to college students pursuing careers in hospitality.

Maine’s $6 billion tourism industry is one the state’s largest economic drivers.

Those honored during a buffet dinner at Thompson’s Point on Tuesday night were: chef of the year Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda in Rockland; innkeeper of the year Gerard Kiladjian, general manager of the Portland Harbor Hotel and Inn at Diamond Cove; restaurateurs of the year Justin and Danielle Walker, of Walkers Maine in Cape Neddick; and rising star Rob Labelle, director of marketing for the Nonantum Resort in Kennebunkport.

“The gala focuses us all on the primary need of sustaining our industry,” Steve Hewins, CEO and president of HospitalityMaine, said at the ceremony. “Its growth and success will simply not continue without attracting, training and providing rewarding careers for our employees – building a talent supply chain.”

Scholarships were bestowed on five students: Taylor Feehan, University of Southern Maine; Alexandra Clark, Thomas College; Barbara Haskell, Husson University; Amanda Hawkes, Southern Maine Community College; and Abigail Brown, Eastern Maine Community College.

The gala is a fundraiser for the association’s education foundation, which focuses on workforce development solutions.

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