Best Restaurateur - 2012
Taste Bakery & Café, which opened on South Beach in 2001, was John Kunkel's first Miami Beach restaurant. Three years later, he sold Taste, which is still going strong, and started Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. Lime proved very popular, which led to the opening of 15 other locations in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Eight years after founding Lime, Kunkel sold the chain to Ruby Tuesday for $24 million. He stepped down as CEO but remains involved with Ruby Tuesday and Lime's further growth. Last year, Kunkel and his 50 Eggs Restaurant Group opened Yardbird Southern Table & Bar to critical and popular acclaim. Next up is Swine, a pork-centric spot in the former Les Halles space on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. And after that, Kunkel is looking to launch another fast-casual chain featuring Southeast Asian street food. He is creative, passionate, successful, and driven to keep doing more. What else could you ask for from a restaurateur?