2019 Sponsors and Participants:






Rusty Mathis started his saga in the hospitality industry in 1978 as a bellman at the Holiday Inn on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs. A hard worker and natural leader, he worked his way up to Assistant General Manager by the age of 21 before branching out into the local restaurant scene. He landed at Ben E. Keith Foods in Mountain Home in 1994 as a sales representative, worked his way to District Sales Manager in Arkadelphia, Assistant General Manager then General Manager of the New Mexico division, and finally came home to Arkansas to become General Manager of Ben E. Keith’s Mid-South Division in 2007. He and his wife Stacy call North Little Rock home and love to give back to their community. After serving on the Thea Foundation board for several years, during which he helped found the Blue Plate Special—then called the Governor’s Culinary Challenge—as a way to elevate the local culinary arts scene while supporting the arts in Arkansas, Rusty remains supportive of the foundation and many other worthy causes in our state and is a local legend in the Arkansas culinary scene.

Gilbert Alaquinez, Forty-Two

Marc Guizol, Capital Hotel

Payne Harding, Cache

Kim Henderson, Heritage Catering

Amanda Ivy, Sauced Bar and Oven

Kelli Marks, Cathead’s Diner

Matcha Norwood, Cinnalightful

Capi Peck, Trio’s

Heidar Assegaf & Jerick Reyes, Kemuri

Petit & Keet

Sarah Repp, The Fold

Luiggi Uzcategui, Big Orange

Amy Garland Angel, Musician

Rodney Block, Musician

Gerry Bruno, Filmmaker

James Hayes, Glass Artist

Janis Kearney, Author

Kevin Kresse, Visual Artist

Stacey & LeRon McAdoo, Spoken Word Poets

Matt McLeod, Visual Artist

Genine Latrice Perez, Musician

Bryant Phelan, Fashion Designer

Barry Thomas, Visual Artist

Linda Rowe Thomas, Fashion Designer