The owner of Dixie Crossroads was named Restaurant Owner of the Year by FRLA

Being named Restaurateur of the Yr by the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Affiliation left Lorelei Thompson in shock and awe.

“It weighs about 10 kilos,” the co-owner of Dixie Crossroads in Titusville stated of the elegant glass trophy she obtained Oct. 24 through the affiliation’s annual gala at Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort in Delray Seashore. “I’ve to know the place to place it within the restaurant.”

However she needs to make one factor clear.

“This award shouldn’t be my award,” she stated. “This award belongs to my household, companions, workers and boat captains. It is for everybody, not simply me.”

Thompson was one among three Hospitality Corridor of Fame winners honored on the ceremony. Provider of the Yr: Pat Monell, president of Tampa’s American Meals District, was named Provider of the Yr, and Eduardo Fernandez of Margaritaville Seashore Resort in Hollywood was named Resort of the Yr.

Extra about Dixie Crossroads: The Titusville restaurant was named top-of-the-line locations for seafood in Florida by the journey website

“The Corridor of Fame Award is without doubt one of the FRLA’s most prestigious honors, celebrating business icons for his or her enduring dedication and memorable contributions to the world of hospitality over the a long time,” Carol Dover, president and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Affiliation, stated in a press release. press launch. “These awards honor distinguished leaders whose legacy has left a long-lasting mark on Florida’s vibrant hospitality scene, and we’re extraordinarily pleased with these inductees.”

Rusty Fisher, a longtime House Coast restaurateur and FRLA member, stated the award is well-deserved.

“It validates what she did in her life to protect the business that we have been in for therefore lengthy,” stated the proprietor of Rusty’s Seafood & Oyster Bar in Port Canaveral and former proprietor of Bernard’s Surf in Cocoa Seashore.

In a world the place hunters and conservationists do not at all times see eye to eye, Thompson has discovered a steadiness, Fisher stated. She understands they each need the identical issues: wholesome waterways. It has made it its mission to revive and keep the Indian River Lagoon whereas supporting secure progress and growth round it.

“That is what she’s accomplished her complete life,” Fisher stated. “We love her for that and respect her for that.”

He grew up with seafood and eating places

A fifth-generation Floridian, Thompson grew up within the restaurant enterprise. Her dad and mom, Mary Jane and Rodney Thompson, owned the Sand Level Inn in Titusville and different seafood- and restaurant-related companies. They opened Dixie Crossroads in 1983.

On the time, it was a 30-seat seafood shack. Diners can select their meal from the fish instances and watch Rodney clear and cook dinner it.

As an adolescent, Thompson ran blue crab traps and gill nets for mullet within the Indian River Lagoon and labored on the again deck of a rock shrimp trawler.

Her father, who died in 2016, is credited with discovering a solution to hack via the arduous shells of native rock shrimp, turning them into scrumptious treats as a substitute of the ineffective crustaceans they have been at all times considered as.

After incomes a level in oceanographic know-how from Florida Institute of Know-how in 1974, she piloted a long-line business boat concentrating on swordfish and tuna within the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

In 1987, as Dixie Crossroads started to develop, she left the fishing business to assist her dad and mom within the restaurant.

The (not so) secret to Dixie Crossroads’ success

Over the previous 40 years, Dixie Crossroads has developed from a small 30-seat restaurant to a 465-seat restaurant. It isn’t unusual to see tour buses parked exterior and a line of ready visitors tossing meals to catch fish in a pond close to the doorway.

The standard of the seafood and Southern hospitality retains folks coming again, Thompson stated.

Lower than 10% of the seafood served in American eating places comes from American waters, however that is not the case at Dixie Crossroads, she stated.

The one non-American fish served there’s the wild-caught Ecuadorian Mahi Mahi. The one farm-raised seafood on the menu is Louisiana catfish. It’s dearer than farmed catfish in Asia, however the high quality is value the fee, she stated.

“We go to nice lengths to verify our prospects get actual American seafood,” Thompson stated.

The tiny, lobster-like rock shrimp the restaurant is known for come from native waters and are processed at Wild Ocean Seafood Market in Port Canaveral, a enterprise began by her father and now owned by her sisters Sheri McCoy and Mike. And Jenna Merrifield.

Dixie Crossroads additionally serves native mullet, native shrimp, and recent native fish of the day, relying on the season.

Ardour to save lots of Brevard water

When she’s not on the restaurant, Thompson fights for the place and life-style she loves.

After receiving her FRLA award on Tuesday, she spoke to the Titusville Midday Rotary Membership in regards to the historical past of Titusville and the way the house program impacted the Indian River Lagoon.

On Friday, she was scheduled to fulfill with Titusville’s metropolis supervisor about spending environmentally endangered land funds, and she or he gave an interview to an Orlando TV station about what’s taking place on the lake.

Extra on IRL well being: The Bear Warriors have filed a lawsuit to power Florida to guard dugongs

She is a board member of the Merritt Island Wildlife Society and a trustee of the Hubbs Sea World Analysis Institute. She is an appointed member of the South Atlantic Fisheries Administration Council, the Indian River Lagoon Nationwide Estuary Program Board of Administrators, the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Citizen Oversight Committee, and the Titusville Florida Environmental Fee.

She additionally served on the Brevard County Vacationer Improvement Board for 20 years, representing ecotourism, and based the annual House Coast Birding and Wildlife Pageant, held in January.

Brevard’s waters have been overfished within the Nineteen Eighties, Thompson stated. However not solely that, seagrasses very important to wholesome fish populations have been destroyed.

“The truth that 90% of our seagrasses have disappeared within the Indian River Lagoon impacts marine fishing,” she stated.

Fish that reproduce within the ocean conceal in lake weeds to develop.

“There is no such thing as a seaweed, and the small fish have nowhere to cover from predators,” she stated.

Thompson is grateful that the residents of Brevard perceive the significance of rejuvenating the lake. In 2016, a half-cent gross sales tax was handed to implement the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Challenge, which goals to enhance the well being and aesthetic attraction of the lagoon.

And it really works.

“We’re seeing some enhancements,” she stated.

However there’s extra to be accomplished, and it must occur sooner. Initially, guidelines concerning rainwater should be strengthened. Not solely do pesticides and chemical substances enter the lake, however recent water from rainwater runoff modifications its salinity.

“Once I was a child, it was a lot saltier than it’s now,” she stated.

Proper now, the lake appears good on the floor, however under the floor, it is nonetheless a multitude.

“All of that is dealt with by the half-penny gross sales tax,” Thompson stated.

The tax will come up for a vote once more in 2026. She hopes Brevard continues to see it as cash effectively spent.

“It took some time for the river to die,” she stated. “It is going to take a while to revive him.”

Dixie Crossroads at this time

“When my mother and pa opened the restaurant 40 years in the past, the menu included issues they obtained from the Indian River,” Thompson stated.

Oysters, shrimp, trout, blue crab.

“The enterprise took off after they added rock shrimp to the menu,” she stated.

The restaurant and menu have developed, however some issues have not modified. Thompson nonetheless prides itself on good meals and good service.

Her mom, Mary Jane, shared one other ingredient within the recipe for a profitable restaurant.

“Deal with prospects like they’re a visitor in your house,” stated Mary Jane Thompson.

For anybody serious about opening a restaurant, Thompson suggests beginning small. She stated: “Make certain your concept succeeds earlier than it turns into massive and nice, and earlier than you uncover that you do not like working 16 hours a day.”

“It’s important to be a bit of loopy to begin working within the restaurant enterprise,” her mom added. “No matter enterprise you are in, it needs to be a part of the household.”

Rodney and Mary Jane’s youngsters and grandchildren grew up within the restaurant.

It was arduous work, nevertheless it was life for her, Thompson stated. “It is one of many few industries the place you can begin with no training washing dishes and find yourself proudly owning your personal restaurant,” she stated.

Having trusted companions – Clay Townsend, Greg Holladay, and Eliseo Gomez – together with a powerful workers, gave her the liberty to serve on all these boards and attend all of the conferences.

It additionally opened doorways for her to pursue her ardour for the atmosphere. “If you personal a restaurant, it is a neighborhood gathering place,” she stated.

State and native politicians and native enterprise leaders cease by for lunch, giving her the proper alternative to go to their tables to talk.

“I used to be capable of develop some actually good relationships,” she stated. “All of those alternatives to sit down on boards and talk my concepts to others happened due to the restaurant.”

Susie Fleming Leonard He’s a distinguished journalist with greater than three a long time of expertise. Accessed at Discover her on Fb: @Susie FlemingLeonard Or on Instagram: @SusieLeonard.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply