The Graham Companies salute ‘Hospitality Heroes’

Featured By Linda Trischitta, Editor Wednesday, May 17, 2023

    The Graham Companies recognized outstanding employees on April 20 and attended the Inn Key Awards luncheon hosted by the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association at the Intercontinental Miami.

     “We celebrated our best,” said Grace Orejas, human resources business partner at The Graham Companies. 

     “These Hospitality Heroes work at the Miami Lakes Hotel on Main, Miami Lakes Athletic Club and for The Graham Companies’ food and beverage vendor, Culinaire, at ML Steaks + Sports,” she said.

     Ana Roche, Recreational Employee of the Year. Known to generations of families in town as the Rhythmic Gymnastics Coach at Miami Lakes Athletic Club, she is 57.

     She was a member of the Cuban Rhythmic Gymnastics Olympic Team at age 14 before coming to the United States. She has worked for the company for 23 years.

      Anthony Artiles, general manager at Miami Lakes Athletic Club, wrote about her: “…in my 20 years in the industry I have never seen an instructor with so much discipline, passion and consistency with the development of children in a program as Ana has done with her program.”

      Some of Roche’s students have had professional performing careers and attribute their success to the foundation she created for them, he said. Parents credited Roche with inspiring them and their children to love the sport and call her a role model.  

     Elizabeth Urresti, Room Keeper Employee of the Year and has 26 years of service with the company.

      Fran Marte, director of operations, hospitality division, wrote that “the key to her success has been consistency and passion.” 

     Urresti, 60, works with a team of 20 and is the first at work and the last to leave, making her a role model for the team that earns exceptional housekeeping scores. 

     Another manager, Maria Pellitero, called her “reliable, always positive” and said, “the word no is not in her vocabulary.” Colleagues say she is an “amazing” boss who brings “so much spirit and positivity,” is a “superhero” and “an essential part of the hotel.”

     Cheryl Bennie-Cortez, Food & Beverage Employee of the Year. She has seven years of service and opens the restaurant early each day, where she is the shift supervisor.

     Bruce Lawrence, general manager at ML Steaks + Sports, wrote that “she does a great job taking care of our guests.”

     Dana Valdez, director of catering at the hotel, said Bennie- Cortez turns clients into “Raving Fans,” while Executive Chef Darren Lee and Restaurant Manager John Pinilla both called her a “superstar.” 

     In February when the hotel was busy with several baseball teams and a large cruise group, Bennie-Cortez made sure the teams’ breakfast accommodations were to their standards, Sports Sales Manager Noelia Trana said. One diner said, “She works very well with very demanding patrons…”

     Alexandra Lopez, Outstanding Culinary/Kitchen Employee of the Year. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Fort Lauderdale, she has 10 years of service with the company.

     Lopez, 30, has worked every spot along the cooking line and has grown through the ranks of the kitchen at ML Steaks + Sports, said Tom Valentin, vice president of Food and Beverage for Culinaire. 

     “We are very proud of Alex and her accomplishments and thrilled to nominate her…” Valentin wrote. 

     Executive Chef Darren Lee said Lopez’s work ethic “makes her a superstar in this business and in our company.” 

     She can be found running the kitchen on nights when there are 200 covers, or meals, prepared. One colleague said she cooks a perfect steak.

     The employees received a cash gift from The Graham Companies and a bound book of the recommendation letters and photos, Orejas said.

     Shown in the large photo at the Inn Key Awards luncheon hosted by the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association on April 20 at the Intercontinental Miami are, from left: The Graham Companies President and Chief Executive Officer Stuart Wyllie; Tom Valentin, regional vice president, operations for Culinaire; Anthony Artiles, general manager, Miami Lakes Athletic Club; The Graham Companies Vice President of Corporate Relations Andrea Graham Rechichi; David Healy, vice president, general manager of Graham Hospitality; Elizabeth Urresti, nominee for Room Keeper Employee of the Year, Miami Lakes Hotel on Main.

     Also, Cheryl Bennie-Cortez, nominee for Food & Beverage Employee of the Year, ML Steaks + Sports, Culinaire; Rene Capo, guest services manager, Miami Lakes Hotel on Main; Alexandra Lopez, nominee for Culinary Employee of the Year, ML Steaks + Sports, Culinaire; Bruce Lawrence, general manager, ML Steaks + Sports, Culinaire; Ana Roche, nominee for Recreational Employee of the Year, Miami Lakes Athletic Club; Darren A. Lee, executive chef, ML Steaks + Sports, Culinaire; The Graham Companies Payroll and Human Resources Information Systems Manager Laura Viruet; The Graham Companies Human Resources Business Partner Grace Orejas; Joshua Janson, revenue manager, Miami Lakes Hotel on Main; Alex Garcia, director of sales and marketing, Miami Lakes Hotel on Main and Annette Prior-Perez, assistant general manager, Miami Lakes Athletic Club. Photos courtesy of Corporate Image Photography.