Each fall, the SFA, with support from the Fertel Foundation, honors an unsung hero or heroine, a foodways tradition bearer of note, with the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award.

We pay homage to their life and work through a documentary film.

Our first documentary film, Saving Seeds, an homage to Kentucky bean and tomato farmer Bill Best, was a finalist for the Golden Snail award from Slow Food. And they’re getting better each year.

2015 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award Winner: Phila Hach

After hosting a Nashville dinner for United Nations delegation in 1976, Hach wrote in her cookbook that commemorated the event, “All people everywhere are dependent on one another. Everyone needs everyone else for freedom, life, love, and happiness.”

2014 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame: Goren “Red Dog” Avery

In 2014, Goren Avery received the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award. Over the course of a three-decade career, Avery has set national standards for service and professionalism and hospitality. In a field where turnover is typically high, Avery has mentored a generation of restaurant professionals.