Elizabeth Blau named 2020’s Cornell Hospitality Innovator

Elizabeth Blau

Elizabeth Blau, MS '97, chief executive officer of Blau & Associates

The Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration has selected Elizabeth Blau, MS ’97 to receive the 2020 Cornell Hospitality Innovator Award. Blau, the chief executive officer of Blau & Associates, will be honored at next year’s Cornell Hospitality Icon and Innovator Awards gala, to be held in June 2021 in New York City. This year’s event will not be held.

Blau began her career in New York with legendary restaurateur Sirio Maccioni, proprietor of the iconic Le Cirque, and worked with him to expand the brand to Las Vegas. After opening Le Cirque at the Bellagio, Blau was recruited to Mirage Resorts as vice president of restaurant development. In that role and in her subsequent evolution to executive vice president of restaurant development and marketing for the Wynn Las Vegas, she developed and oversaw every aspect of food and beverage concept creation, development, operations, and promotion for hundreds of restaurants. With her vision, Blau inspired award-winning chefs and convinced them to venture to Las Vegas and join with her in transforming the culinary culture and dining experience there. This quantum leap forward, and focus on fine food, were revolutionary to what had been a buffet-focused dining scene there.

Blau founded Blau & Associates in 2002 and made it into one of the foremost restaurant development and consulting companies in the field. She went on to open a series of successful restaurants across Las Vegas. In 2012, she and her husband, chef Kim Canteenwalla, embarked on their first solo independent venture, Honey Salt. The next year, Blau & Associates partnered with Buddy Valastro, star of TV’s Cake Boss, to open Buddy V’s Ristorante. The fine-dining restaurant Andiron Steak & Sea followed in 2015.

For the Parq Vancouver Resort & Casino, which opened in Canada in 2017, Blau conceptualized, developed, and assembled a world-class portfolio of five restaurants, including a new location of Honey Salt in the JW Marriott, that her company continues to operate today.

Blau has appeared as a judge on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America, has been featured on the Travel Channel and the Martha Stewart Show, and is an annual judge for Hotels magazine’s “Great Hotel Restaurant” list. She co-starred on CNBC’s Restaurant Startup as one of the Season 3 investors. In 2017, Blau and Canteenwalla co-authored Honey Salt: A Culinary Scrapbook, which was named Best Cookbook of 2018 by Food & Beverage Magazine.

Blau’s many honors and awards include the 2006 IFMA Gold Plate Award, Cornell’s 2017 MMH Outstanding Alumna of the Year Award from the School of Hotel Administration, and 2019’s Stevie Award for Women in Business. In February 2020, she was honored with the Silver State Awards’ Innovator Award, which honors excellence in the state of Nevada. She serves her profession and community in many capacities, including as a trustee of the Culinary Institute of America; an advisory board member at the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Communities in Schools Nevada; and chairwoman of the Culinary Council of Three Square Food Bank in southern Nevada. Most recently, Blau has launched and co-founded the Women’s Hospitality Initiative (WHI), a Las Vegas-based nonprofit venture committed to accelerating the development and advancement of women as leaders in the restaurant industry.

The Cornell Hospitality Icon and Innovator Awards is the largest annual event for the School of Hotel Administration, bringing together hundreds of influential leaders in the global hospitality and travel industries each year. The event is a key fundraiser for the school’s annual fund, which provides critical need-based scholarships for students.

For details about the Cornell Hospitality Icon and Innovator Awards, please visit the event web page or contact Meg Keilbach.

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