Skip to main content
4 minutes reading time (791 words)

Sarasota-Manatee Originals Names Four New Board Members


Bringing years of expertise and culinary passion, four new members have joined the Sarasota-Manatee Originals’ board of directors. Dean Donnelly, Gabe Garcia, Mila Aguiar, and Becky Souflis will now help manage the business and affairs of the organization.

“Each board member brings a different set of competencies, viewpoints, and backgrounds to the boardroom, and it’s exciting to see them working together as a group for the greater good of the organization,” said Liza Kubik, acting executive director of the Originals. “With their shared passion to promote our local culinary scene and independent restaurants, I expect the Originals brand to be strengthened under their guidance.” 

The incoming board members join these stellar restaurant and marketing professionals:  

Marc Grimaud | Owner, Café Gabbiano | Board President 

Nikki Logan-Curran | Owner, The Scout Guide Sarasota | Board Vice President

Emma Kate Silvestri | Marketing Director, Venice Pier Group | Board Secretary  

Michael Harb, CPA | Board Treasurer 

Michael Klauber | Co-Proprietor, Michael’s On East | Founding Board President

Joe Farrell | Owner, Pop’s Sunset Grill | At-Large Board Member

Dean Donnelly | Chef and Owner, Mean Deans Local Kitchen, Bradenton

Since beginning in the food industry as a teenager, Donnelly worked his way up from busboy to server to bartender to manager. He was often “the guy being sent around the country to open new restaurants or turn around struggling ones,” he said. Throughout his almost 50 years in the business, he has owned seven restaurants. Previously, he owned Cedar Reef Fish Camp (with locations in Bradenton and Venice) before opening Mean Deans in November 2020. “I appreciate living in a community that values local restaurants and culinary excellence,” Donnelly said. “The Sarasota-Manatee Originals embodies this spirit, and I'm proud to be part of it.”

Becky Souflis | Director of Catering and Events, Simply Gourmet by Metz and The Ringling Grillroom, Sarasota

Souflis serves as the director of catering and events for Simply Gourmet by Metz and The Ringling in Sarasota. As a longtime catering expert, she is passionate about setting a standard of excellence for her clients and guests. Gaining experience and expertise throughout the past decade, Souflis has provided catering services for companies such as Tesla, Saks Fifth Avenue, Adidas, and TaylorMade Golf. “I joined the Originals because I have a passion for promoting local businesses, such as ours,” Souflis said.

Gabe Garcia | Owner and Chef, Miguel’s Restaurant, Siesta Key

Born and raised in Sarasota, Garcia holds a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts from Johnson & Wales. He has worked in Boston, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; and Malaga, Spain, and he returned to Sarasota to take over the family restaurant, Miguel’s Restaurant on Siesta Key (partnering with his brother, Dan). Wine is his second passion, and he is currently a certified sommelier through the Court of Masters Sommeliers Americas. “The Sarasota-Manatee Originals represents everything that I am: small restaurants, local restaurants, and hospitality,” Garcia said.

Mila Aguiar | Co-Owner and General Manager, 1592 Wood Fired Kitchen & Cocktails, Downtown Sarasota

Aguiar moved to Florida from Montreal, Canada, and she has been involved in the hospitality industry for most of her life. She looks forward to increasing her charitable associations in the community and is dedicated to mentorship (especially for those new to the industry). Her partner in life and business recognized her abilities in the service industry and introduced her to the life of a restaurateur. “By supporting local restaurants, farmers, and artisans, we foster a sustainable ecosystem that preserves culinary traditions and promotes economic growth,” Aguiar said. “Engaging with local cuisine allows us to savor unique flavors, fresh ingredients, and innovative dishes that reflect the community’s history and identity.”

Sarasota-Manatee Originals is a community collaborative of locally-owned restaurants on Florida’s Suncoast. It was twenty years ago that members from the Sarasota and Manatee area’s restaurant community came together to unite independent restaurants and identify our region as a culinary destination. By bringing together restaurants through membership, they could showcase the best of their combined culinary offerings to a broader audience.

As local, small businesses are able to grow together, they’re empowered to give back in even greater measure. Working toward shared success, the Originals proudly feed the reaped rewards back into their neighborhoods. Independent, locally-owned restaurants nourish their surroundings, strengthening the relationships, health, and economy of their community.

Today, Sarasota-Manatee Originals consists of over 60 locally-owned restaurants and is dedicated to promoting and sustaining the local independent area restaurants and providing diners with unique local flavor. SMO Member restaurants help define the Suncoast, give it character, and make it a memorable town to visit and live. The Originals urge you to support our local independent restaurants here and across the country and encourage you to always “Eat Like A Local.”

For more information visit