Chef Gerry Klaskala of Aria and Canoe Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Georgia Restaurant Association

Chef Gerry Klaskala of Aria and Canoe Receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Georgia Restaurant Association

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2018 GRACE Awards Honor Chef-Owner of Beloved Buckhead Restaurant and

 Charitable Champion of Atlanta’s Culinary Scene at Aug. 12 Gala


ATLANTA (July 31, 2018) – On Sunday, Aug. 12, the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) hosts the 12th Annual Georgia Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards Gala to honor leaders who have made outstanding contributions to Georgia’s restaurant industry. Among these leaders is Gerry Klaskala, chef /co-owner of Aria and co-owner of Canoe, who is receiving this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplished career, charitable giving and dedication to the community.

“The man is all heart,” says Gina Christman, publisher of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles. “Gerry is generous to a fault, as fun-loving as they come and, undoubtedly, a creative genius in the kitchen.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award winner is peer nominated, which ensures that the most deserving in the industry is honored. The winner is then chosen by the GRACE Academy, which includes former GRACE nominees and current GRA Board members. Klaskala’s peers not only consider him a leader of Atlanta’s restaurant industry but also one of the city’s most generous chefs.

“I do not know a more giving and positive individual in our industry,” says fellow Atlanta chef and restaurateur Anne Quatrano. “The energy, time and resources he devotes to so many deserving causes is staggering. He is my personal hero.”

These deserving causes hold a special place in Klaskala’s heart and include the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Atlanta Community Food Bank, High Museum of Art and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, just to name a few. When Klaskala isn’t working at Aria, he’s donating his time to numerous food and wine events to benefit these organizations. He is the chef chair for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Georgia Chapter’s Harvest for a Cure event, chef co-chair of Open Hand Atlanta’s Party in the Kitchen and a founding chef of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. Klaskala has also participated for decades in the Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation event, formerly chaired the American Liver Foundation’s Flavors of Atlanta event and is a member of the Vidalia Onion Committee’s Chefs Advisory Board.

“Chefs don’t really have an opportunity to see each other very often, so it’s a way for us to stay connected and be a part of great causes,” Klaskala says of participating in fundraising events. “And now it’s so encouraging to see so many talented and caring younger chefs taking leadership roles with organizations that are near and dear to their hearts.”

His humble nature and innate ability to bring people together are two of the many reasons Klaskala has been a fixture on both the Atlanta and national dining scenes since 1988. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he spent 10 years with the Hyatt Hotels Corporation. He then served as co-owner and chef of 45 South in Savannah before joining Buckhead Life Restaurant Group as the chef and managing partner of The Buckhead Diner in Atlanta. Here, he received national praise, and his well-honed cooking techniques and his restaurant management skills created a fan following among Atlanta diners. In 1995, he moved on to open one of Atlanta's most celebrated restaurants, Canoe, with partners George McKerrow and Ron San Martin, followed by Aria in 2000. Throughout his career, Klaskala has also consulted on several high-profile restaurant openings in Atlanta (Atlas in The St. Regis, Stoney River Steakhouse and Grill) and Madison’s at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, North Carolina.

Aria has been a perennial favorite among Atlanta’s most discerning diners for the past 18 years, and Klaskala still finds joy in exceeding his guests’ expectations on a nightly basis. “I’m just so proud of all the regulars that dine with us over and over. It’s feels like we’re cooking for family every night. That’s what gives us the sense that we’re doing something right.”

A true testament to Klaskala’s staying power and relevance, Aria was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Service and a Top Time-Tested Restaurant by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2017. In 2018, Atlanta Magazine named Aria in the top 10 of its 2018 Best Restaurants list. “I give all the credit to our team at Aria,” says Klaskala, who believes the longevity of his career is his greatest accomplishment. “Our team is all about providing great service, great food and memorable experiences for our guests again and again.”

For Klaskala, the future of both Atlanta’s dining scene and the city’s philanthropic community looks bright. “I am very proud to be part of this city and to watch the incredible growth and nurturing of talent that is going on here,” he says. “It’s getting better and better. There is a cadre of other chefs who are leading the way philanthropically, but we still need the generosity of the city and folks with a giving spirit to help with the heavy lifting.”

To learn more about the GRACE Awards or to purchase tickets to the gala at The Fairmont on Aug. 12, visit  

Aria is located at 490 East Paces Ferry in Buckhead. Dinner is served Monday through Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m. For more information, call 404-233-7673 or visit Canoe overlooks the Chattahoochee River at 4199 Paces Ferry Rd SE. The restaurant serves lunch weekdays, dinner nightly and brunch on Sunday. For more information, call 770-432-2663 or visit