(Feb. 21) Complementing its annual retail produce manager awards program, the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., plans to debut a similar recognition for chefs.

The United Fresh Research and Education Foundation’s Produce Excellence in Foodservice Awards, through a grant from Monterey, Calif.-based Pro*Act LLC, honors companies and chefs who excel at promoting produce on their menus, said Amy Philpott, vice president of marketing and Industry relations for United Fresh.

The inaugural awards will be presented to five winners May 6 at the United Fresh Marketplace show in Las Vegas.

Pro*Act is pleased to support the program honoring excellence in the use of produce in foodservice, said Steve Grinstead, president and chief executive officer of Pro*Act, in a news release.

“Pro*Act and United joined together and said, ‘Let’s do something for foodservice,’” Philpott said.

The foodservice program was a natural extension of the successful retail awards, now in its fourth year, she said.

“We want to honor those who are on the front lines of the produce industry,” she said.

The new awards are a great way to highlight the increasing profile of fresh fruits and vegetables in restaurants, said Tom Stenzel, president of United Fresh, in a news release. He also praised the generous support of Pro*Act that makes the program possible.

Philpott said the awards competition is divided into five categories: fine dining, casual and family dining, quick service restaurants, industry/colleges and hotels/health care.

Nominations must be submitted before March 24, Philpott said. A nomination form is available online at www.unitedfresh.org.

Philpott said individual chefs or companies can be nominated.

Selection of winners will be based on examples of how nominees incorporate fresh produce into menu development. Also evaluated will be protocols for storage and handling of produce, and how operators create an overall positive dining experience highlighting fresh produce, she said.

Airfare to Las Vegas, two nights of hotel accommodations and registration for the United Fresh show will be provided to the five winning chefs and their corporate executives.

The chefs will participate in the May 6 convention education program “Produce Marketing Track — Foodservice Trends to Explode Produce Sales.”