Restaurateurs Leo Duran, owner of El Paso’s legendary L&J Café, and Bob Westbrook of Tyler, a 19-year CiCi’s Pizza franchisee, are the latest Texas Restaurant Association (TRA) members to be inducted into TRA’s legendary Hall of Honor – the highest award the association can bestow. The ceremony will take place at the TRA’s 2018 Night of Excellence event on Saturday, July 14 at 7:00 p.m. at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, 900 E. Market Street in San Antonio. The event is held in conjunction with the 81st annual TRA Marketplace, the second-largest industry foodservice show in the country.
Qualifications for the honor are rigorous - nominees must have a minimum of 15 years of TRA membership and exemplify superior business ethics. Criteria include significant time and energy devoted to the benefit of TRA and its members, as well as to his or her local chapter. Nominees must also gain proper recognition for the restaurant industry, and help to build the image of the food service industry overall.
“Induction into the Hall of Honor is the highest award we can give to publicly recognize those who have been outstanding leaders, successful business people and a true beacon to others,” said Richie Jackson, CEO of TRA.
L&J Café, fondly known by locals as “the old place by the graveyard”, has been a part of the El Paso community for nearly 91 years. It has consistently been recognized locally, regionally and has been in the national spotlight multiple times. Leo represents the third generation in the business. The landmark café was first launched by Duran’s maternal grandparents in 1927, as “Tony’s Café.”
Leo has been an integral part of both the El Paso Restaurant Association, where he served as president four terms, and is currently a local board director, and the Texas Restaurant Association, where he has been a member for nearly 26 years. At TRA, he has held many leadership positions throughout the years including state board of director membership, TRA Political Action Committee (PAC) trustee, TRA Education Foundation Task Force member, President’s Council member, and has served on numerous committees.
A large part of Leo’s philosophy both personally and professionally, is giving back to the community that supports him. He is actively involved in several community organizations, and has been honored repeatedly for his service.“To be recognized by so many people whom I have worked alongside, respected and admired throughout the years, is an incredible feeling,” he says. “It is a true honor. I’ve always felt that wealth in knowledge comes from not only having it – but also from sharing it, as so many others have done with me,” Duran said.
Restaurateur Bob Westbrook of Tyler, is a successful, 19-year CiCi’s Pizza franchisee, having owned and operated four restaurants, two in Tyler, one in Longview and one in Sulphur Springs. He credits his success to hard work, strong faith, a supportive family and being active in his community.
His restaurant association roots run deep - both in the East Texas Restaurant Association, and Texas Restaurant Association. He has served as chairman of the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation (TRAEF), past president of the Texas Restaurant Association, and former TRA PAC chairman, as well as holding several other high-profile positions within the association.
Bob’s community leadership roles also cover a wide range of organizations, including the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, where he served as chairman and led several committees. He was also the first restaurateur investor and member of the executive board of directors for the Tyler Economic Development Corporation.
Bob is thrilled about the honor. “Being inducted to the TRA’s Hall of Honor is truly humbling. There is a long line of remarkable Hall of Honor restauranteurs who have inspired and paved the way for the rest of us, and I’m honored to be included in that group. Giving back to our industry, our communities and our guests is what the hospitality industry is all about.”
Last year the Hall of Honor award was presented to Scott Plowman, of Wichita Falls, co-owner of The Parkway Grill & Sports Bar and Pelican’s. Over the past 32 years of the award’s history, there have been 121 Hall of Honor inductees.