2019 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame ceremony tonight

The 2019 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame ceremony takes place at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater tonight (February 25).

The 2019 Arkansas Food of the Year is Catfish. Not only is it a staple in many restaurants throughout the state, it is also a major contributor to the state’s economy.

Last month, the finalists in four of the five categories were announced. The fifth, the People’s Choice Award, goes to the entity that received the most nomination submittals. It will be announced, along with the winners in the other categories tonight.

The finalists in the other four categories are:

Food Hall of Fame
AQ Chicken House (Springdale)
4-Dice Restaurant (Fordyce)
Bruno’s Little Italy (Little Rock)
Burge’s Restaurant (Lewisville)
Craig Brothers Cafe aka Craig’s (De Valls Bluff)
Doe’s Eat Place (Little Rock)
Keeney’s Food Market (Malvern)
Kream Kastle (Blytheville)
The Ohio Club (Hot Springs)
Star of India (Little Rock)

Proprietor of the Year
Capi Peck, Little Rock (Trio’s)
Loretta Tacker, Marion (Tacker’s Shake Shack)
Peter Brave, Little Rock (Brave New Restaurant)
Sami Lal, Little Rock (Star of India)
Scott McGehee, Little Rock (Yellow Rocket Concepts restaurants)

Food Themed Event
Hope Watermelon Festival
International Greek Food Festival (Little Rock)
Our Lady of the Lake Annual Church Spaghetti Dinner (Lake Village)
Tontitown Grape Festival
World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook Off (Stuttgart)

Gone But Not Forgotten
Klappenbach Baker (Fordyce)
La Scala Italian Restaurant (Little Rock)
Mary Maestri’s Italiano Grillroom (Springdale)
The Shack Barbecue (Little Rock)
Uncle John’s (Crawfordsville)

The Arkansas Food Hall of Fame is a project of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.  The members of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee are:

  • Paul Austin
  • Swanee Bennett
  • Yvette Brady
  • Chip Culpepper
  • Montine McNulty
  • Dr. Cindy Grisham
  • Tim Horton
  • Rex Nelson
  • Tim Nutt
  • Dr Wendy Richter
  • Kat Robinson
  • Christina Shutt
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2019 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Finalists announced

The 2019 Arkansas Food Hall of Fame finalists were announced today (January 10) at the Department of Arkansas Heritage headquarters.

This year, the Hall of Fame’s third, over 600 nominations were received in the five categories.  (The first year there were 300 nominations received and last year 450 nominations were submitted.)

As Department of Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst noted, “The number of nominations confirms that people are indeed opinionated about their food.”  She continued, “Food is woven into our culture and our heritage.”

The 2019 Arkansas Food of the Year is Catfish. Not only is it a staple in many restaurants throughout the state, it is also a major contributor to the state’s economy.

The finalists in four of the five categories were announced. The fifth, the People’s Choice Award, goes to the entity that received the most nomination submittals. It will be announced, along with the winners in the other categories, at the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame ceremony on Monday, February 25 at the CALS Ron Robinson Theater.

The finalists in the other four categories are:

Food Hall of Fame
AQ Chicken House (Springdale)
4-Dice Restaurant (Fordyce)
Bruno’s Little Italy (Little Rock)
Burge’s Restaurant (Lewisville)
Craig Brothers Cafe aka Craig’s (De Valls Bluff)
Doe’s Eat Place (Little Rock)
Keeney’s Food Market (Malvern)
Kream Kastle (Blytheville)
The Ohio Club (Hot Springs)
Star of India (Little Rock)

Proprietor of the Year
Capi Peck, Little Rock (Trio’s)
Loretta Tacker, Marion (Tacker’s Shake Shack)
Peter Brave, Little Rock (Brave New Restaurant)
Sami Lal, Little Rock (Star of India)
Scott McGehee, Little Rock (Yellow Rocket Concepts restaurants)

Food Themed Event
Hope Watermelon Festival
International Greek Food Festival (Little Rock)
Our Lady of the Lake Annual Church Spaghetti Dinner (Lake Village)
Tontitown Grape Festival
World Championship Duck Gumbo Cook Off (Stuttgart)

Gone But Not Forgotten
Klappenbach Baker (Fordyce)
La Scala Italian Restaurant (Little Rock)
Mary Maestri’s Italiano Grillroom (Springdale)
The Shack Barbecue (Little Rock)
Uncle John’s (Crawfordsville)

The members of the Arkansas Food Hall of Fame Committee are:

  • Paul Austin
  • Swanee Bennett
  • Yvette Brady
  • Chip Culpepper
  • Montine McNulty
  • Dr. Cindy Grisham
  • Tim Horton
  • Rex Nelson
  • Tim Nutt
  • Dr Wendy Richter
  • Kat Robinson
  • Christina Shutt

Little Rock Look Back: LR voters overwhelming support bid to Restore Robinson in 2013

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, voters of Little Rock overwhelmingly chose to renovate the historic Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

By a vote of 5,183 For and 1,800 Against, Little Rock citizens approved a plan to use a portion of the city’s existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for a renovation of Robinson Center.  The campaign was chaired by businessman Charles Stewart, restaurateur Capi Peck and former LR Mayor Jim Dailey.

Robinson has long been a landmark in central Arkansas. Construction of the Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium began in 1938 (after a December 1937 groundbreaking under a deadline) and officially opened February 1940. The structure was a PWA (Public Works Administration) project, and is an excellent example of the Art Deco style architecture of the time. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The facility is owned by the City of Little Rock and managed by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 1940 structure suffered from a wide array of deficiencies, including stage loading and unloading, stage size, acoustical insufficiency, dressing room access and inadequate wing space within the performance hall. Also, structural, mechanical and electrical issues, public circulation and outdated conference center spaces existed within the facility.

Knowing the center is in need of major upgrades if the facility is to continue to serve central Arkansas into the future, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission (LRA&P) empanelled a Robinson Center Concept Team in October 2011. The group was tasked with evaluating all aspects of the existing facility, researching user needs, proposing conceptual solutions and estimating the cost and construction schedule of the proposed additions and renovations. The concept team was led by Mike Steelman of SCM Architects, PLLC, and included representatives from WD&D Architects, Shuler Shook Theatre Planners, Jaffe-Holden Acoustical Consultants, TME Inc. Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, ECI Inc. Structural Engineers, McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. Civil Engineers, East Harding Construction, HVS Consulting and Hunt Construction Group.

Additionally, stakeholder and tenant organizations representing the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Celebrity Attractions of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Double Tree Hotel participated in the planning. The concept team findings were presented publicly on June 5, 2012.

On January 17, 2013 the LRA&P announced the selection of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, partnered with Ennead Architects, as the architectural and design team for the future renovations. On March 28, 2013 CDI Contractors LLC, partnered with Hunt Construction Group, were selected by LRA&P as the general contractors and construction managers.

On September 23, 2013 the final schematic renderings and cost estimates were presented publicly. The schematic plans depict major interior upgrades within the performance hall including additional volume to create a two-balcony setup, increased lobby space, acoustical improvements, theatrical upgrades, loading dock expansion, a larger stage area, and new dressing room facilities. Additionally, an enhanced modern ballroom and small conference center was unveiled. New technology, mechanical systems, and outdoor plaza spaces were included in the presentation.

Construction would begin on July 1, 2014.  It reopened on schedule and on budget on November 10, 2016.

Jewish Federation honors Capi Peck, including for her work with Operation Song

On December 8, Capi Peck was the Grand Honoree at the Jewish Federation of Arkansas’ Bridging Worlds: The 15th Annual Jane B. Mendel Tikkun Olam Awards.  Among the reasons she was cited was her work with Operation Song.

The awards are named in memory of Jane B. Mendel who was active in many education and social issues throughout her lifetime as well as Arkansas’ Jewish community.  Tikkun Olam is Hebrew for Repairing the World.

Operation Song is a program to create an opportunity to transform service related issues, injuries and illnesses into a structured, musical outlet as an enhancement of traditional therapies and/or treatments.  Founded in 2012 and based in Nashville TN, it has produced over 600 songs with veterans of World Ward II up to service members in active duty.

Goodman and Dean with Operation Song

It pairs award winning composers and lyricists with the veterans. Earlier this year, Capi brought the program to Little Rock for a workshop which lead to a concert being performed of the songs which had been written during the workshop.

Two songs written by Operation Song based on Little Rock veterans’ experiences were performed at the awards program last night by Steve Dean and Don Goodman with Operation Song. “The Journey” told the tale of Derek Mumford’s childhood in Britain and subsequent evacuation to the US during World War II, while “Classified Top Secret” captured Gene Weinstein’s experiences working on classified missions during the war.

Congratulations to Capi, and thank you for introducing Operation Song to Little Rock!

Little Rock Look Back: Robinson Center closes in preparation for Second Act

On July 1, 2014, Robinson Center Music Hall closed so that renovations could commence.  Instead of having a groundbreaking ceremony, Gretchen Hall and LRCVB arranged for a “stage breaking.”  Slats from the stage flooring were pried up with crowbars.

Twenty-eight months later, Robinson Center reopened on-time and on-budget.

(As a side note:  the Culture Vulture announced the countdown before Governor Mike Beebe and various Little Rock leaders used their crowbars for the first breaking of the stage flooring.)

Here are some photos from that ceremony.

Little Rock Look Back: Robinson Center closes for renovation

On July 1, 2014, Robinson Center Music Hall closed so that renovations could commence.  Instead of having a groundbreaking ceremony, Gretchen Hall and LRCVB arranged for a “stage breaking.”  Slats from the stage flooring were pried up with crowbars.

Twenty-eight months later, Robinson Center reopened on-time and on-budget.

(As a side note:  the Culture Vulture announced the countdown before Governor Mike Beebe and various Little Rock leaders used their crowbars for the first breaking of the stage flooring.)

Here are some photos from that ceremony.

Little Rock Look Back: LR votes to Restore Robinson!

restore-robinson-121013On Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, voters of Little Rock overwhelmingly chose to renovate the historic Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.

By a vote of 5,183 For and 1,800 Against, Little Rock citizens approved a plan to use a portion of the city’s existing 2 percent restaurant and hotel tax to repay bonds for a renovation of Robinson Center.  The campaign was chaired by businessman Charles Stewart, restaurateur Capi Peck and former LR Mayor Jim Dailey.

Robinson has long been a landmark in central Arkansas. Construction of the Joseph T. Robinson Memorial Auditorium began in 1938 (after a December 1937 groundbreaking under a deadline) and officially opened February 1940. The structure was a PWA (Public Works Administration) project, and is an excellent example of the Art Deco style architecture of the time. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

The facility is owned by the City of Little Rock and managed by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The 1940 structure suffered from a wide array of deficiencies, including stage loading and unloading, stage size, acoustical insufficiency, dressing room access and inadequate wing space within the performance hall. Also, structural, mechanical and electrical issues, public circulation and outdated conference center spaces existed within the facility.

Knowing the center is in need of major upgrades if the facility is to continue to serve central Arkansas into the future, the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission (LRA&P) empanelled a Robinson Center Concept Team in October 2011. The group was tasked with evaluating all aspects of the existing facility, researching user needs, proposing conceptual solutions and estimating the cost and construction schedule of the proposed additions and renovations. The concept team was led by Mike Steelman of SCM Architects, PLLC, and included representatives from WD&D Architects, Shuler Shook Theatre Planners, Jaffe-Holden Acoustical Consultants, TME Inc. Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, ECI Inc. Structural Engineers, McClelland Consulting Engineers Inc. Civil Engineers, East Harding Construction, HVS Consulting and Hunt Construction Group.

Additionally, stakeholder and tenant organizations representing the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Celebrity Attractions of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Double Tree Hotel participated in the planning. The concept team findings were presented publicly on June 5, 2012.

On January 17, 2013 the LRA&P announced the selection of Polk Stanley Wilcox Architects, partnered with Ennead Architects, as the architectural and design team for the future renovations. On March 28, 2013 CDI Contractors LLC, partnered with Hunt Construction Group, were selected by LRA&P as the general contractors and construction managers.

On September 23, 2013 the final schematic renderings and cost estimates were presented publicly. The schematic plans depict major interior upgrades within the performance hall including additional volume to create a two-balcony setup, increased lobby space, acoustical improvements, theatrical upgrades, loading dock expansion, a larger stage area, and new dressing room facilities. Additionally, an enhanced modern ballroom and small conference center was unveiled. New technology, mechanical systems, and outdoor plaza spaces were included in the presentation.

Construction would begin on July 1, 2014.  It reopened on schedule and on budget on November 10, 2016.