Congratulations to Chefs Jim Shirley and Michelle Bernstein who will be honored at The 2021 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show with the Torch and Beacon Awards, respectively. These two restaurant industry leaders will be recognized for their outstanding achievements and commitment to the Southeast restaurant industry during the convention taking place on Sunday, September 19, and Monday, September 20, 2021 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. Each chef will present a culinary demonstration following the presentation of their award. For more information about the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show, visit

“The prestigious Torch Award was created to honor a chef and/or restaurateur who embodies outstanding knowledge and leadership, philanthropic and community efforts, extraordinary talent and creativity, innovation and inspiration. We are thrilled to be able to present this award to Jim Shirley who is an accomplished chef and restaurant owner and also the Chairman of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA),” said Rita Ugianskis, Vice President for the Clarion UX Food & Beverage Group. “We also look forward to presenting The Beacon Award to Chef Michelle Bernstein. This  award recognizes a woman leader who has truly served as a Beacon for the industry through her leadership, contributions, and inspiration. The word Beacon symbolizes many things including a person that illuminates or inspires, which truly defines Chef Bernstein.”

The Torch Award will be presented to Jim Shirley on Sunday, September 19, 2021 at 12:45 pm on Center Stage by The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show and The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. Jim is a chef and restaurateur in South Walton, Florida, owning Great Southern Café, 45 Central Wine and Sushi Bar, and b.f.f. in Seaside, Florida, as well as The Bay Restaurant and Farm & Fire Southern Pizzeria in South Walton. He is also co-owner of Meltdown on 30A in Seaside.

Jim was previously the president of the Northwest Florida FRLA chapter and president of the Escambia County chapter. He is currently the treasurer of FRLA’s Educational Foundation. Jim sits on the board of the Children’s Home Society and was formerly on the Seaside Neighborhood School board for three years. Jim represented Florida in the 2015 Great American Seafood Cook-Off. In addition, Jim has been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York City four times. He is the author of the cookbook, “Good Grits! Southern Boy Cooks,” a compilation of his best recipes along with entertaining stories. Jim is the 2020 Van Ness Butler Jr. Award recipient. In 2020, For more info on previous Torch Award Winners, visit

Chef Michelle Bernstein will be presented with the Beacon Award on Monday, September 20, 2021 at 12:45 pm on Center Stage. Chef Bernstein, a Miami native of Jewish and Latin descent, who has dazzled diners and critics alike with her sublime cuisine and a personality as bright and vibrant as the Florida sun. A James Beard Award winner (Best Chef South 2008) and author of Cuisine a Latina (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2008), Bernstein and her husband/business partner David Martinez) own/operate MBC Michelle Bernstein Catering Company in addition to their newest endeavor, Café La Trova, a Cuban-inspired bar and café located in Little Havana combining innovative and traditional Cuban-style and technique.

Bernstein dedicates time to Common Threads, an after-school program for underprivileged kids, and regularly appears on an array of national TV shows, from Top Chef to Good Morning America. Bernstein continues to host the Emmy award-winning PBS weekly television series, Check, Please! South Florida. Now in its fifth year, Bernstein also hosts the Emmy award-winning weekly TV series on Channel 10, SoFlo Taste that celebrates the food of South Florida. Bernstein has also worked with Memorial Cancer Institute (MCI), a part of Memorial Healthcare System, to provide oncology patients with a variety of food alternatives to help ease their way through treatment. For more information about the Beacon Award, and past recipients, visit

Both awards will be presented on Center Stage on the show floor which will also feature Culinary Demonstrations, the Rapid Fire and Hip Sip Competitions with local chefs and bartenders and other panel discussions. The exhibit hall will offer the American Culinary Federation Culinary Competitions, Food Trends Experience, Bar Innovation Pavilion, TechBytes, Coffee Fest Marketplace and the Healthy Foods Expo and new products and innovations from 350 exhibiting companies. Registration is now open for the 2021 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show and Healthy Food Expo. Both events are produced and managed by Clarion Events, and sponsored by the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. For additional information visit

Clarion Events produces 37 events across 13 sectors of both trade and consumer events. The Food & Beverage Group includes the International Restaurant & Foodservice Show of New York, The Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show, Healthy Food Expo, CoffeeFest and The NGA Show. Clarion Events, backed by The Blackstone Group, has become one of the fastest growing event companies in the U.S. with aggressive growth through both acquisition and launch. Clarion acquired PennWell in early 2018, bringing 4 Tradeshow 200 events into the U.S. portfolio and super-charging the already rapid growth. Clarion Events has offices in Trumbull, CT; Kennesaw, GA; Boca Raton, FL; Tacoma, WA, and Fairlawn, NJ.