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Eat'n Park to receive national recognition

Eat'n Park Hospitality Group is being recognized nationally by the American Culinary Federation for its commitment to excellence in food service.

The Homestead-based organization and its senior director of culinary services Regis Holden will accept the Achievement of Excellence Award this weekend at the ACF National Convention in Dallas.

Eat'n Park will join 22 other establishments from around the United States in receiving the award.

"It's just fantastic to be honored by your peers," Holden said. "The American Culinary Federation is a large-membership organization of professional chefs in the United States. This is my and Eat'n Park's first national recognition from the American Culinary Federation."

Holden and Eat'n Park were nominated by ACF Laurel Highlands Chapter president Cindy Komarinski, and ACF Laurel Highlands Chapter apprenticeship chair Mary Zappone. Both women also are culinary arts/hospitality professors at Westmoreland County Community College.

Holden, who graduated from the Culinary Arts Apprenticeship Program at WCCC, has been a part-time faculty member, guest lecturer and is now an advisory board member at the community college's culinary arts/hospitality program. He is ACF Laurel Highlands Chapter's chairman of the board as well.

"We have had the opportunity to observe Regis within his role at Eat'n Park Hospitality Group and are impressed with how naturally he assumes and accepts the responsibilities and challenges of his position," Komarinski and Zappone wrote in the nomination letter. "Regis has well-developed organizational and management skills. He is very resourceful, creative and assumes a leadership role with ease."

In past years, Holden has been Chef of the Year and received a president's award for the ACF Laurel Highlands Chapter.

Holden volunteers to travel around the country to perform accreditation work for various colleges and institutions.

"I go in and make sure they are meeting their criteria," he said. "We look at everything they do."

Holden has been with Eat'n Park for 26 years.

He said that, when preparing a new recipe for the restaurant, he and other chefs focus on four primary things.

"One is how we can incorporate fresh fruit or vegetables in the recipe," Holden said. "Next is, are we able to use any fresh-baked breads?"

He said another question he asks is how chefs can make the dish an Eat'n Smart item.

"We have more healthy selections than any of our competitors," Holden said.

Lastly, he said, he wants to make sure a new recipe has an identifiable flavor profile that can be attributed to Eat'n Park's use of the freshest ingredients.

Holden said Eat'n Park is committed to bringing money back into the local economy with its FarmSource program.

"We partner and work with 120 local farmers to bring commerce back in the area," he said. "We have a desire to give back to the community and provide great products at the same time."

To receive the award, restaurants must be in operation for at least five consecutive years, nominated by an ACF chapter or member, and be a recognized industry leader.

The American Culinary Federation Inc., which began in 1929, is a premier professional culinary organization with more than 20,000 members nationwide. More information is available at the website www.acfchefs.org .

Holden also received the Produce Excellence in Food Service Award from the United Fresh Produce Association last spring.

More information on the restaurant chain can be found online at www.eatnpark.com .

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