Burbank Chamber Excellence Awards Offer a Delicious Taste of the City

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(Photo Courtesy The Range Photography)

The Burbank Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence Awards ceremony on Saturday, June 1, dazzled attendees with a sumptuous array of culinary delights, from succulent fried chicken and savory empanadas to gourmet prosciutto-wrapped cheese and refreshing orzo salad. Guests indulged in the celebratory atmosphere, enjoying bundt cakes, whimsical cotton candy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle video games, and swiveling chairs. The event honored outstanding members of the local business community, fostering an evening rich in recognition and camaraderie.

Held at Nickelodeon Animation Studios, the annual gathering featured tasty food and beverages from more than a dozen Burbank providers. Recognized honorees included Tequilas Restaurant, winner of Small Business of the Year; College Help Squad, Emerging Small Business of the Year; Nothing Bundt Cakes, recipient of the Community Impact Award; and Cheryl Fox, named Chamber Ambassador of the Year. The Burbank YMCA and Burbank Temporary Aid Center received the Heart of the City recognition for their 100th and 90th anniversaries, respectively.

(Photo by © Ross A Benson)

Burbank Chamber CEO Jamie Keyser-Thomas welcomed local dignitaries, including Senator Anthony Portantino, Mayor Nick Schultz, Vice Mayor Nikki Perez, Councilmembers Konstantine Anthony, Zizette Mullins, and Tamala Takahashi, City Clerk Kimberly Clark, Police Chief Mike Albanese, and City Manager Justin Hess. Local realtor and stand-up comedian Justin Worsham, also a Chamber board member, kept the program lively as he emceed the event. Award presenters included Chamber Board member Gema Sanchez, local realtor Barry Gussow, Chamber Ambassador Nathaniel Beaver, Taylor Bercini, founding member of Burbank Young Professionals, and Jeanette Meyer, BTAC board member.

Keyser-Thomas noted the event’s growth from a handful of food providers to 17 attendees this year and thanked the Disney Volunteers and National Charity League for staffing check-in, the silent auction, and other activities.

Carlos and Patricia Riveras, owners of Tequilas Restaurant, accepted the Small Business of the Year award, surrounded by family members and employees, including the restaurant’s general manager Juan Vazquez. Patricia shared emotional remarks about the community events they organize, such as their annual toy drive and cancer awareness fundraiser, a cause close to her heart.

Cynthia Wagner and Karrie Sullivan founded College Help Squad to offer personalized college planning, essay assistance, extracurricular guidance, SAT/ACT support, and financial aid assistance. Wagner, a Burbank native and the Chamber Ambassador and President-Elect of the Burbank Noon Rotary, shared her motivation behind starting the company, inspired by her experience navigating college planning with her son. After nearly five years with a college planning service, Wagner ventured out independently to continue empowering students in their college pursuits.

Jeff and Bonnie Abel accepted the Community Impact Award on behalf of their small business, Nothing Bundt Cakes, with locations at Burbank’s Empire Center and in Glendale. Jeff reminisced about his mother and grandmother’s stories of living in Burbank and riding the trolley to downtown Los Angeles. Both he and Bonnie had corporate jobs until the day Bonnie decided to quit and they bought a bakery. They have cherished every moment of growing their business and are thrilled to contribute to the community by donating desserts for local events, embodying the spirit of a civic-minded business in Burbank.

Cheryl Fox, honored as Chamber Ambassador of the Year, has spent decades running businesses in Burbank and now works as a wealth and health coach at Experior Financial Services. Despite recently having a stroke, Fox gave heartfelt remarks thanking her family for their support.

Unfortunately, Mary Cutone, CEO of the Burbank Community YMCA, couldn’t attend to receive that organization’s award on its 100-year anniversary, as she was recovering from illness at home. Instead, Sam Kim, the interim CEO, graciously accepted the award, acknowledging Cutone’s and others’ contributions over the past century. He humorously likened himself to the person who takes credit for opening a jam jar after someone else has done all the work of loosening it, drawing a warm response from the audience.

Lastly, Burbank Temporary Aid Center CEO Barbara Howell and Board Chair Nancy Gams Korb took the stage to accept the second Heart of the Community Award on behalf of BTAC, calling Burbank a tightknit community that really cares about those in need. BTAC is celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2024.

Food and beverage providers who donated to the event were Chili John’s, Tasty by Tina, Love Catering, Millie’s Sweet Treats, Porto’s Bakery and Cafe, Nothing Bundt Cakes, California Pizza Kitchen, Romancing the Bean Cafe, BB Cafe, World Empanadas, Tequila Gran Diamante, Candy Clouds, Bread & Breakfast, BZ Momz Meals, Le French Rooster, Metropolitan Culinary Services, and Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. To learn more about the Burbank Chamber of Commerce, visit its website here.

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