CRDA hosts Atlantic City Host, Spirit of Hospitality Awards
Atlantic City, NJ (May 11, 2023) – When city native Maria Christine Martin turned 50 this year, she didn’t think her year around the sun would encompass so many blessings and success.
Becoming a minister at her parish, God is Reaching Out Ministries at Pacific and Texas avenues, spending time with her five children and six grandchildren, and being nominated for the Atlantic City Host and Spirit of Hospitality Awards — after she helped save someone’s life with the assistance of a customer after a man collapsed while dining at Resorts Casino Hotel — topped off her year.
“I didn’t think turning 50 was going to be this good,” said Martin, who donned a birthday tiara Wednesday at the Host and Spirit of Hospitality Awards ceremony at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. “When they nominated me, it made me feel awesome that I was a part of saving someone’s life that day.”
The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority has hosted the Host and Spirit of Hospitality Awards for 24 years, to honor casino and hospitality workers who go above and beyond their work duties, like Martin.
“Many, many, many people come together to do this event,” said Rick Santoro, director of the Special Improvement Division of the CRDA.
“It is an honor for CRDA to be able to recognize outstanding individuals within Atlantic City’s hospitality industry each year,” said CRDA Executive Director Sean Pattwell. “These are truly remarkable and inspiring people who work tirelessly each day to provide our visitors with exceptional and memorable experiences. I send my sincere congratulations to all of this year’s award winners.”
The awards aim to recognize front-line and back-of-the-house workers with 25 awards in categories like best bartender, best host/hostess, best retail sales associate, best visitor information/concierge/service personnel and more.
Additionally, presenters gave two special Atlantic City Improvement Awards to Michael Brestle of Calvi Electric Company and Thomas Sykes of SOSH Architects for their community-building work; and the Spirit of Hospitality Award to Jane Bokunewicz, director of Stockton University’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism.
Pattwell said LIGHT’s launch of the International Journal of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism helped the global hospitality industry reopen in a clean, safe and healthy manner during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The host awards are very special to me because I have served for almost 10 years on the selection committee that reviews all the nominations each year,” Bokunewicz said. “I’ve had the privilege of reading hundreds of stories about Atlantic City employees serving our guests and doing amazing things each year. I am deeply moved by the kindness, caring and even heroism displayed by the hospitality professionals in Atlantic City.”
Bokunewicz shared some of those impactful nominee stories, like a server who helped a customer with Alzheimer’s disease order his favorite dish on the menu because he would often forget, someone performing the Heimlich maneuver on choking guests and a waitress recognizing a guest going into diabetic shock.
“It doesn’t take an award to let you know you’re doing a good job,” said Martin. “But it’s encouraging. It lets you know you’re receiving what you are putting out.”
Winners for the CRDA’s 24th Annual Atlantic City Host Awards and Spirit of Hospitality Award
Best Server – Fine Dining Restaurant
Digna Molina, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
Best Server – Casual Dining Restaurant
Scarlet Labega, Ocean Casino Resort
Best Server – Banquet Catering
Gary Smith, Resorts Casino Hotel
Best Food and Beverage Support
Guillerrmo Zavala, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
Brian Weekes, Golden Nugget Atlantic City
Vincent Ciampi, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
Best Visitor Information/Concierge/Service Personnel
Jaliss Bracero, Tanger Outlets Atlantic City
Best Retail Sales Associate
Mary Piccari, Caesars Atlantic City
Best Door/Bell Person
Sherman Green, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
Best Room Service Personnel
Bengie Harri, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino/Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
Best Casino Host
Best Food Production Personnel
German Guzman, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
Best Heart of the House Personnel
Emilio Palomino, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City
Shanae Bunn, Marriott’s Fairway Villas
Best Security Personnel
Mariget Mercado, Golden Nugget Atlantic City
Best Casino Games Personnel
Jayesh Surti, Bally’s Atlantic City
Best Casino Support Personnel
Gustavo Escobar, Ocean Casino Resort
Best Public Area Personnel
Lemuel Rascoe, OVG 360
Karen Gonzalez, Caesars Atlantic City
Best Cocktail Server
David Martinez, Resorts Casino Hotel
Best Spa Personnel
Katrina Parker, Caesars Atlantic City
Best Facilities Operations
Jack Migone, Bally’s Atlantic City
Best Sports Book/I-Gaming Personnel
Lawrence Smith, Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa
Nousheen Ghazanfar, Atlantic City – Atlantic Cape Community College – $1,000
Tanoya Blake, Atlantic City – Stockton University – $2,000
Tyler McDonnell, Blackwood, – Stockton University – $2,500 ($2,000 + $500 Howard Bacharach Award)
Jacob Thompson, Egg Harbor City – Stockton University – $2,500
By: Selena Vazquez