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Miss Shirley's Cafe was happy to present the “Eddie Dopkin First Course Award, Honoring Entrepreneurship in Hospitality” Scholarship for the 7th year, at the RAM Annual Awards Gala in April!

The $5,000 scholarship, presented by Restaurant Association of Maryland Education Foundation on behalf of Miss Shirley's Cafe, was awarded to one deserving student who aspires to work in the hospitality industry.

This year's recipient was Morgan State University student, John James!


Eddie was a longtime restaurateur, caterer, entrepreneur and visionary in Baltimore. He came from several generations of food producers and purveyors, including his parents, whom he worked alongside to learn the industry firsthand.

Eddie created Miss Shirley’s Cafe, which opened its first location on West Cold Spring Lane in 2005, serving Award Winning Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch; and was a Partner in The Classic Catering People; as well as owned and operated many other restaurants over his remarkable career.

Although widely known as a popular and successful restaurateur, Eddie was also a whole-hearted philanthropist and driving force within the community. His generosity was infectious, and when in meetings, the “first course” of business on Eddie’s agenda was always donation requests and team member-based initiatives. From gift cards and turkey dinners to circus tickets, ball games and milestone celebrations, the “first course” was always based in giving; which is why at Miss Shirley’s Cafe, we felt it was important to honor and celebrate Eddie's memory, by created this scholarship.


When asked about where his passion for Hospitality began, John James recalled, “I started my career in hospitality during the 2020 pandemic. While tackling high school classes from home, I took advantage of the free time I had and sought employment at The Kings Contrivance Restaurant, a local fine dining establishment. Located in an old Federal mansion, it serves high-end American dishes and holds firm to its traditional charm in both marketing and service. While the restaurant was traditional, I was at the forefront of the restaurant’s pivot to contactless service. The restaurant weathered the economic storm because it was able to adjust to meet customer needs. During my time at The Kings Contrivance Restaurant, I noticed staff confusion and prolonged wait times, stemming from outdated technology systems. This sparked my fascination with hospitality management.”

John has a particular passion for what he refers to as being “trend pulse proficient,” which he describes as involving “curating music, décor, employee attire, social media apps, and other programs to align with current trends,” while ensuring that “the voice and needs of diverse communities are met” within restaurant establishments.

Among his many goals, John strives to leverage his skills and passion in a hospitality management position, to “help develop creative recruitment strategies,” as well as to “design comprehensive incentive programs to develop positive employee relationships, ultimately enhancing guest experiences.”

Congratulations, John! We applaud your innovative spirit and passion for improving the hospitality industry, and we look forward to seeing you accomplish your admirable goals!

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