The time has come for the United Fresh Produce Association’s annual Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards, and this year’s prize will send five chefs and their executives to Las Vegas in April for the association’s annual convention.

The program, which is sponsored by Pro*Act LLC, Monterey, Calif., awards chefs who incorporate fresh produce into menu development, use protocols for correct storage and handling, engage in community outreach and build and overall positive dining experience featuring fresh produce, according to a news release from Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh.

Chefs can be eligible in one of five categories:

  • Fine dining restaurants;

  • Casual and family restaurants;

  • Quick serve restaurants;

  • Business in industry and colleges,

  • and hotels and healthcare industry.

“Leading chefs at restaurants and foodservice operations around the country play such an important role in the fresh produce industry,” said Mitch Smith, director of U.S. quality systems agricultural products for McDonald’s Corp. and vice chairman of United Fresh’s retail-foodservice board, in the release.

“Not only are they making great strides toward increasing consumption, they continue to innovate, creating new ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their menus,” he said.

Nominations are due by Feb. 1. Nomination forms are available at In addition to the airfare, accommodations and registrations for United Fresh 2010 April 20-23, winners participate in the convention’s education program, according to the release.

Last year’s winners were:

  • George Mavrothalassitis, chef and owner, Chef Mavro, Honolulu, Hawaii;

  • William Fuller, corporate chef, Big Burrito Restaurant Group, Pittsburgh, Pa.;

  • William Faulk, vice president of brand development; Shona Jonson, senior manager of menu development, and the Chick-fil-A menu development staff, Chick-fil-A Inc., Atlanta;

  • Glenn Pruden, executive chef and assistant director of university dining, University of Richmond, Richmond, Va.; and

  • Miles McMath, senior executive chef, Morrison Management Specialists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.