Upstate restaurateur spearheads culinary education in Delaware

April 28, 2017

By virtue of my involvement with the of Italy Culinary Scholarship Foundation, I was honored to attend last week’s Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation Banquet. The annual event is held at Harry’s Savoy Grill in Wilmington, owned by seasoned restaurateur Xavier Teixido (pronounced: TISH-a-doe). The purpose of the event is to raise funds for the DRAEF and to honor Delaware high school students who have distinguished themselves in the 19 schools that offer DRA’s ProStart culinary program.

These budding chefs prepared the entire banquet - from the passed hors d’oeuvres to the lavish desserts - under the watchful eyes of a team of consummate professionals that included such downstate luminaries as SoDel Concepts Vice President Doug Ruley, Corporate Chef Ronnie Burkle and Executive Chefs Jason Dietterick, Maurice Catlett and Andy Feeley. Blue Moon co-owner and Executive Chef Lion Gardner lent an experienced hand, along with Fork + Flask @ Nage Corporate Chef Sean Corea. Gardner’s wife and business partner Meghan recently served as executive director of the DRAEF. The small army of fledgling toques did an amazing job of prepping, cooking and serving the huge ballroom full of DRA ProStart supporters. 

Harry’s Hospitality Group owner Xavier Teixido (Harry’s Savoy Grill, Harry’s Seafood Grill and Kid Shelleen’s restaurant) was recently honored with the 2017 Thad and Alice Eure Ambassador of Hospitality Award at the National Restaurant Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. And he was in good company: Past winners include Chef Paul Prudhomme, celebrated Louisiana restaurateur Ralph Brennan, Chik-fil-A’s S. Truett Cathy and Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities President Richard E. Marriott. 

Teixido has chaired both the National Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. He’s also on the board of the Delaware Restaurant Association. He played a big part in the development of the ProStart program for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, raising more than $1 million with the annual Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation dinner. The resulting funds contributed directly to the development of Delaware’s ProStart program in both the culinary and management aspects of food service. 

Xavier gained his food service skills at the now long-gone Brandywine Raceway and the iconic New Orleans fine-dining restaurant Commander’s Palace. Since 1984 he has become a major landmark in the Delaware dining landscape. 

During his keynote speech, current DRAEF Chairman Josh Grapski singled out Xavier and his awards as virtual recognition of Delaware’s entire restaurant industry. Grapski is president of LaVida Hospitality, the parent of Fork + Flask @ Nage, Crooked Hammock Brewery, Big Chill Surf Cantina, Taco Reho Truck and the soon-to-open Big Chill Beach Club at the Indian River Inlet. He made a point of clarifying that what Teixido and others have accomplished in this state is proof positive of the impact that the hospitality industry has not only on the economy of The First State, but also the young people who dream of careers in this business of eating.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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