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RICHARD GONZMART

Richard Gonzmart’s education in food preparation began when he was born. He is the great-grandson of Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the founder of the world-famous Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s Historic Ybor City. The Columbia was founded in 1905 and is the oldest restaurant in Florida, and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.

Richard’s practical experience in the food industry began at the early age of 12, when he started spending summers as an apprentice cook in the Columbia kitchen. He graduated high school from Tampa’s Jesuit High School in 1971 and continued at the University of Denver School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and he received his degree from the University of Madrid, Escuela de Hosteleria. He is now president of the Columbia Restaurant Group, which includes six Columbia Restaurants, one Columbia Café, and two Cha Cha Coconuts, a tropical bar and grill.

Gonzmart has lectured extensively on Spanish food and wine. In 2006 he was selected to represent the State of Florida to prepare a few of his family restaurant’s award-winning dishes for 30 media representative at the Bon Appetit Magazine Dining Room in New York City. The event honored Visit Florida’s 10th Anniversary Celebration. In 2005 he was a guest speaker at the National CEO (Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Organization) Annual Conference.

In 1985, he toured Canada for two weeks, representing the state of Florida, and was a keynote speaker at the 1992 Pillsbury Cookoff. His more noteworthy culinary presentations include the preparation and serving of a giant Paella, Spain’s national dish, for the luncheons and dinners including 1,200 members of the National Tour Operators Association at the Lexington, Kentucky Rupp Arena, again the NTA for 1,800 members at the Minneapolis, Minnesota Convention Center, and for 1,400 members of the American Bus Operators Association meeting in Orlando. He was also selected to represent the Lucky Food Store chain in a national promotion featuring “Five Star World of Fine Cooking.”

Gonzmart was honored to be appointed by former Governor Jeb Bush to the Florida Commission on Tourism in 2006. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Inaugural Florida Entrepreneur & Family Business Advisory Board at the University of Tampa, Board of Directors for Visit Florida, Board of Directors of the Tampa Chamber of Commerce, Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Hospital Foundation Board, Treasurer of the Florida Highway Patrol Advisory Council Executive Board of Directors, Hillsborough County Commission Tourist Development Council, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Board of Directors, the University of South Florida Foundation, and the University of South Florida Athletic Task Force. He is also on the Advisory Committee for the Culinary Operations Academy for Hillsborough High Schools.

 


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