May 3, 2017

Faces of Diversity Finalists

Wisconsin Restaurant Industry Leader Honored with Faces of Diversity Award

Joel Cervantes from El Rio Grande in Stoughton, Mark Gold from Pizza Shuttle in Milwaukee and Nancy Viswanathan from OM Indian Fusion Cuisine in Madison were selected as the Wisconsin finalists for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s Faces of Diversity – American Dream award.

These awards shine a light on the restaurant industry’s diversity and hope to inspire further inclusion through the annual program. In partnership with PepsiCo Foodservice, the Faces of Diversity Awards program honors individuals in the restaurant industry who have realized the American Dream through hard work, determination and enterprise.

Founded in 2006, this program was created to promote the importance of diversity and inclusion by highlighting model companies that have excelled in this area, as well as to raise awareness about the important role restaurants play in providing a ladder of opportunity for millions of Americans to achieve the American Dream.

Joel Cervantes, whose parents emigrated from Mexico, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Cervantes’ first experience in the restaurant industry was waiting tables at his uncle’s restaurant in Indiana. Prior to pursuing his dream of owning a restaurant of his own, he worked as a butcher with his father at a meat packing company. Cervantes open his restaurant in Stoughton in July of 2004 with some help from his parents. His brother and sister soon joined him and the three siblings still work there together. Cervantes received national attention this fall when he spear-headed a Go Fund Me campaign to benefit Fidencio Sanchez, an elderly Chicago food vendor whom Cervantes spotted pushing his paleta (Mexican popsicles) cart in his old neighborhood. The campaign raised a record-breaking $380,000 for the Sanchez family. Cervantes appreciates how the residents of Stoughton have embraced and supported his family business and is pleased to contribute to local causes.

Mark Gold has been working in the restaurant business since he was 15. As a young entrepreneur how opened a lawn cutting business with his childhood friend and current business partner Louis Siecinski. The duo moved to Milwaukee in 1985 when Gold was just 20 to open their own business and they are now celebrating 32 years in business. Gold had a turbulent home life as a child and had to deal with the challenges of ADHD, a learning disability and speech problems. The restaurant industry gave him an accepting home. As a result, it’s important to him to provide his employees a welcoming workplace and the same opportunities for success that he found. Gold also is committed to giving back to his community by supporting numerous local charities.

Nancy Viswanathan began work at age 14, was on her own at just 17 and already manager by 18. She’s held many restaurant, hospitality and human resources jobs and spent ten years in the Army. After serving her country she earned her bachelor’s degree in hospitality management and then an MBA in human resource management. She met her husband, Sumanth Viswanathan, in college and together they opened their restaurant with the goal of combining her love for Indian culture and cuisine. Viswanathan is involved in many local and international organizations and has recently worked to combat human trafficking in India and other parts of South Asia through the Aruna Project.

The national winners for the Faces of Diversity American Dream Awards were honored during the National Restaurant Association’s annual Public Affairs Conference, March 28 - 29 in Washington, DC. The state finalists from Wisconsin did not win at the national level.

For more information and for a list of the national winners of the Faces of Diversity Awards, visit the National Restaurant Association’s website at