Restaurateur Billy Dec

Get ready to party. Chicago-based restaurant entrepreneur and television personality Billy Dec will be the master of ceremonies at this year’s MenuMasters Awards, an invitation-only event at the Drake Hotel in Chicago May 21.

Now in its 19th year, the MenuMasters Awards, presented by Nation’s Restaurant News and sponsored by Ventura Foods, recognize excellence in menu innovation.

“We are thrilled to have Chicago’s own entrepreneur, influencer and hospitality guru Billy Dec host the MenuMasters Awards program, sponsored by Ventura Foods,” said Laura Viscusi, vice president and market leader for the Penton Food and Restaurant Group, which includes NRN.

“MenuMasters has long been an A-lister awards program and party. With Billy Dec hosting, guests can look forward to us pumping up the volume.”

MenuMasters logoAwards are given for best new menu item, limited-time offer, line extension, menu revamp and healthful innovation. Every year a restaurant is named the annual MenuMasters Trendsetter, and a chef is named Innovator of the Year.

Also at the gala ceremony, a culinary giant is inducted into the MenuMasters Hall of Fame. Past inductees have included Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Tom Colicchio.

Each year the celebration — which combines a cocktail party featuring food from the winners, an awards ceremony and a fun after party — draws a capacity crowd of top executives in the foodservice industry.

Dec is the founder of Rockit Ranch Productions, a hospitality and entertainment development company whose venues include Sunda, The Duck Inn, Rockit, Bottlefork and The Underground. Rockit Burger Bar's hamburger has been featured as one of Good Morning America's favorite burgers. The Duck Inn's Duck Fat Dog was named “Top Dog” at the 2014 Food Network in Concert event in Chicago.

He is a frequent guest in entertainment and cooking segments on NBC’s “Today” show and “Windy City Live” on ABC. He has also appeared in numerous acting roles on TV shows including “Empire,” “Criminal Minds” and “American Crime Story.” He recently founded Elston Films to bring more television and movie projects to Chicago.

“Food is now at the center of American culture and entertainment, and I don’t know of anyone who exemplifies that better than Billy Dec,” said NRN senior food editor Bret Thorn. “I know MenuMasters event attendees will enjoy getting to know him.”

Dec is on the White House Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, where he serves on the Bullying Prevention Task Force. He has received numerous awards, including two regional Emmy awards, an Excellence in Business Award from the State of Illinois, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Community Leadership Award and Chicago-Kent College of Law Alumni Professional Achievement Award.

He is involved in philanthropic organizations including Best Buddies, Lookingglass Theatre and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.