The interior-design style as you enter Michelle Cerveny’s home might best be described as LongHorn Chic — the centerpiece of her front room is the huge Steak Master Series trophy she won last June after out-grilling six finalists and becoming the first woman to win the grand prize.
The trophy keeps company with a framed belt buckle, a chef’s knife engraved with her name, the Chicago division trophy and the large cardboard checks from each round of the LongHorn Steakhouse annual grilling competition she swept last year.
As it turns out, Michelle was just getting warmed up. Last month, she was promoted to manager, a goal she set for herself six years ago. After her management training this month, she will move from her Cuyahoga Falls, OH, location, where she has worked for the last eight of her nearly 13 years with Darden, to the nearby restaurant in North Canton. She said winning the Steak Master Series helped her get there.
“I think my win helped push me toward management a little quicker,” she said. “When I returned to my restaurant, I felt much more confident. Steak Master Series provided a big boost to my career.”
She said the competition was the most exciting event of her life. “Right after I won, I was whisked off to New York City to appear on Fox & Friends. I couldn’t believe how much attention I got and how many people wanted to talk to me and learn about grilling steaks. They couldn’t believe that a woman won!”
Another highlight, Michelle said, was meeting many people who are sure to become lifelong friends.
The $10,000 prize didn’t hurt, either. She used some of it to buy a new car, paid some bills and is saving the rest for her wedding. Jeremiah Kneffler recently got down on one knee, and they plan to wed on July 4, 2020 (the Fourth of July is the anniversary of their first date and their favorite holiday). “It’s been a good year so far,” she said.
As Michelle embraces her new role, she has an important message to share. “Women can do anything men can do. I hope my win last year persuades many more women to compete and show their worth in the annual competition — and in everything life has to offer.”