TORONTO — Toronto’s 39th Top Management Night Gala and Fundraiser attracted some 200 foodservice industry insiders to The International Centre in Mississauga, Ont., last night to network, toast award winners, break bread and hear the success story of Cora Tsouflidou, founder of the Quebec-based Cora restaurant chain.
The Toronto branch of the Canadian Association of Foodservice Professionals (CAFP) hosted the night that began with two awards presentations. Leslie Wu, editorial director of Ontario Restaurant News (ORN), presented the Newsmaker of the Year award to Anthony Casalanguida, GM of Yorkdale Shopping Centre, for the Toronto mall’s Dine on 3 foodservice program. The new food court is part of a 2012 mall expansion and includes features such as fireplaces, real cutlery and a concierge services desk.
Next, Mitch Kostuch, president and group publisher of Kostuch Media, presented Starbucks Coffee Canada with the Hans Bueschkens Award of Merit, outlining the company’s community involvement. “We typically have so much people involved [in volunteer work] that we can’t find enough work to do,” said Ward McKay, VP of Foodservice and Licensed Stores, upon accepting the award.
Following dinner, Tsouflidou beguiled the crowd with a motivational speech about leadership. “When I started in 1987, I absolutely didn’t know what I was doing,” admitted the woman who founded Cora’s as a single mother of three. “No one wanted to hire me.”
Before long the mother turned businesswoman caught the “entrepreneurial sickness,” building an empire based on a desire to “delight” by cooking what customers wanted with a passion that remains today. “I’m working 20 years for people to love me,” confessed the Quebecois businesswoman.
Now, with more than 130 stores under her belt, the roving founder — who has since handed over the role of president to her son, Nicholas — offered five key drivers of success: creativity, focus, hard work, a dash of doubt and commitment. “It’s a beautiful arena to express yourself,” the 25-year industry veteran said of her business. “Be ready for the adventure.”
Following her presentation, Tsouflidou was awarded the ORN Restaurateur of the Year award, before the final award for CAFP Food Executive of the Year was presented to a surprised Jonathan Hughes, CFE, of HFS and Zast Foods.