Michael Hizer

El Paso man inducted into exclusive White Castle Cravers Hall of Fame

COLUMBUS, Ohio — White Castle, the beloved fast-food hamburger chain and consumer-packaged goods business, inducted 13 loyal fans into its Cravers Hall of Fame during a virtual ceremony Wednesday night – including one El Pasoan.

The 13 inductees, from cities across the country, were chosen from hundreds of entries that all showed just how far some people will go to satisfy their Crave.

Adam Richman, renowned TV host, actor, author and culinarian, was also inducted as a “Craver in Extremis.” Richman, a long-time fan of White Castle, earlier this year hosted an episode of The History Channel’s Modern Marvels that featured the burger chain.

The Cravers Hall of Fame was created in 2001 as an exclusive club to recognize its most passionate and zealous fans, affectionately referred to as Cravers.

Each year, hundreds of Cravers submit their White Castle stories in hopes of being chosen for the Cravers Hall of Fame. While some of the stories are funny, some are poignant and some are remarkable, all of them are very personal, heartfelt testaments to the ways in which White Castle has touched lives and created lasting memories.

“Year after year, we are amazed at the stories people share about their strong and unique connections with White Castle,” said Lisa Ingram, president and CEO at White Castle and a fourth-generation family member. “It’s so gratifying to know that we’ve played such a significant and memorable part in the lives of so many people.”

The 13 members of the 2020 class were selected last fall, but the induction ceremony was postponed from earlier this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Historically, we have inducted our Craver Hall of Famers in person during a special ceremony that’s held in front of hundreds of our general managers, regional directors, and district supervisors as well as our leadership and operations teams for both the restaurant and retail divisions,” said Jamie Richardson, vice president at White Castle. “However, this year we are excited to live stream the event so that Craver generations everywhere can be a part of this special ceremony.”

In addition to getting recognition at the ceremony, the 2020 inductees will also receive a commemorative plaque and an extra special tribute: Their stories will be featured on the restaurant’s iconic Slider box packaging, the new designs for which will be rolled out in early 2022.

To determine the Hall of Fame’s most worthy Cravers, the judges set criteria based on brand loyalty, creative presentation, originality and magnitude of the Crave.

In 2002 the “Craver in Extremis” category was added to recognize public figures, celebrities and pop icons, which now includes Adam Richman as well as Richard Dreyfuss, Alice Cooper, Telfar Clemens, Kal Penn and John Cho, and the late Stan Lee, who all have publicly expressed their love of White Castle.

Since the Hall of Fame start in 2001, a total of 262 inductees have been honored with this distinguished award.

Nominations for the next class of Cravers Hall of Fame can be submitted now through White Castle’s website here.

The Cravers Hall of Fame Class of 2020 includes:

1. Thomas Perri, Maple Grove, Minnesota

“Craver Maniac”

Thomas Perri is a marathon runner who has participated in at least one race a month for 534 consecutive months. That’s 44 years and five months! Nothing has stopped him, not even a diagnosis of stage 4 prostate cancer in 2019 or the pandemic in 2020. The only activity he’s been doing longer than running is eating at White Castle. Thomas had his first Slider in 1965, a full 10 years before he started running. He typically combines his two favorite cravings — running and White Castle — by indulging in Sliders whenever he completes a race. With the races taking place in cities across the country, Thomas has easily eaten in at least 150 different Castles. Already a member of the Marathon Maniacs Hall of Fame, Thomas is proud to boast membership in the Cravers Hall of Fame, as well.

2. Robert Kolsch, Brunswick, Georgia

“Crave Collector”

Most people collect things like old coins, classic cars or baseball cards. But Robert Kolsch collects Slider boxes from White Castle. He believes he owns the only complete collection of boxes printed since 1931, including the 50th, 75th and 90th anniversary editions. This year, he added the 100th anniversary edition box to his collection. Besides displaying the boxes proudly, he also uses them when he’s outside of his “personal Crave Zone” — or the distance he’s willing to travel at any given time to visit a White Castle restaurant. He’ll pick up a box or two of frozen Sliders from the grocery store, prepare them at home and eat them out of the iconic packaging, just as if he’d bought them by the sack at a White Castle restaurant.

3. Russ Maziarka, Richfield, Minnesota 

“Raised on the Crave”

For as long as Russ Maziarka can remember, White Castle has always played a part in his life story. In the early 1960s, he and his siblings enjoyed White Castle while sitting in the back of their dad’s 1956 Chevy. A few years later, Russ and his friends in suburban Chicago would frequent White Castle, where they purchased three Sliders, fries and a drink for just $1. In the 1970s, White Castle became a meal often shared with dates at the drive-in theater or used to fuel late-night study sessions. In the ensuing years, Russ introduced White Castle to his co-workers, his friends, his kids and his granddaughter. White Castle was even the last meal he shared with his dad just two days before his dad passed away. Today, Russ and his wife still love to share a White Castle meal together, often sitting in the parking lot of their favorite White Castle and reminiscing about the role of White Castle in their life journey.

4. Michael Hizer, El Paso, Texas 

“Never Sleep on Sliders”

One Friday night when he was just 11 years old, Michael Hizer stayed up past his bedtime and fell asleep on the couch. He awoke to his dad, just home from work, calling him to the kitchen. Michael walked into the room, expecting to be scolded. Instead, his dad offered him his first taste of White Castle. “I was instantly hooked,” Michael recalled. From that point on, he purposely fell asleep on the couch on Friday nights knowing his dad would come home from work with a sack of Sliders and fries for the two of them to share. Several years later, Michael was diagnosed with cancer. After each chemotherapy treatment or lengthy stay at the hospital, Michael’s wife would stop at White Castle in Eureka, Missouri, on the way home to get Michael six cheese Sliders, fries and a chocolate shake, the only food that tasted good. Now a resident of El Paso, Michael lives far from a White Castle restaurant, but he’s content enjoying Sliders from his local grocery store. “I’m truly a White Castle Craver for life.”

5. Lora Rayner, Edison, New Jersey

“A Lineage of Sliders”

If it weren’t for White Castle, chances are Lora Rayner and her husband would have never married. Lora worked at a Castle in Elizabeth, New Jersey, throughout her four years of college. Early on, a young man she met in physics class began stopping at White Castle every Saturday morning on his way to his part-time job, always ordering four cheese Sliders, a cheese danish and an orange soda. “I guess he really liked the way I made his cheeseburgers, because after four years, upon graduating from college, he proposed to me,” Lora said. With White Castle playing such an important role in their love life, the couple decided long ago that there would be no better place to spend Valentine’s Day than at White Castle. So, each year, they celebrate their love for each other — and for cheese Sliders — at White Castle.

6. Richard Winiarski, The Villages, Florida

“Do You Have the Crave?”

Richard Winiarski grew up on White Castle, having had his first Slider around 1947 when he was 12 years old. His family would clip coupons for a sack of Sliders and send one of his older brothers to the White Castle in Jackson Heights, New York, to pick up the hot-and-steamy little burgers. When Richard started dating his future bride, they ended each date with a stop at that same White Castle. So, it only made sense that when they married in December 1958, they and their entire wedding party stopped at a White Castle between the ceremony and reception for a quick meal of Sliders and fries. Richard and his wife visited White Castle often all the years they lived in New York. Since retiring to The Villages in Florida, however, their trips to White Castle are few and far between. But they always satisfy their Crave for freshly steamed Sliders whenever they’re back in New York visiting family.

7. Daniel Mann, Schnecksville, Pennsylvania

“Just a Crew of Cravers”

“Everything is better when you share it with others.” Daniel Mann lives by that philosophy, which he learned from his grandmother. She always had a Crave Case on the table when he went to her house or a sack of Sliders in her hands when she arrived for a visit. Daniel passed along that philosophy — and his love for White Castle — to his three best friends. As high school seniors, they created the “Castle Gang” and started every weekend with a trip to White Castle. Now in college, the Castle Gang gets together whenever they’re on break, meeting up at White Castle and reconnecting over their beloved Sliders.

8. Barbara Smole, Clarksville, Maryland

Sean Smole, Clarksville, Maryland  | Dick Sorenson, Columbus, Ohio

“It Runs in the Family”

Barbara Smole fondly recalls the times her dad, Dick Sorenson, brought White Castle home for dinner when she was a child. She could tell by the twinkle in his eye — and the delightful smell of onions — that he had a sack of Sliders to share. He loved White Castle and wanted to foster that same appreciation for the scrumptious little burgers with his family. He was such a fan that he purchased 400 Sliders for the guests at Barbara’s wedding reception in 2002. When Barbara’s son, Sean, was born, Dick was eager to introduce his grandson to the Crave. Now 12, Sean and his Papa are Slider buddies, sharing White Castle meals whenever they can. They’re grateful that White Castle can satisfy not only their Crave for Sliders, but also their Crave for spending time together.

9. Lisa Pluto, Southfield, Michigan

“A Mother & Daughter Tradition”

White Castle has been part of Lisa Pluto’s life for more than 50 years, but it took on special significance in 2010 when she and her mom, who suffered from dementia, began spending Valentine’s Day together at the Castle. It became a beloved tradition that lasted through 2019. While her mom forgot many things, she always remembered White Castle and the taste she loved so much. Lisa’s mom passed away in late 2109, and the same White Castle in Oak Park, Michigan, that had served as an oasis on Valentine’s Day catered the meal following the funeral. Not wanting to end the Valentine’s Day tradition, Lisa invited more than 20 friends and family members to dinner at White Castle in 2020 to remember and honor her dear mom.

10. Richard Sudranski, Roanoke, Virginia

“Roll Out for the Crave”

Richard Sudranski became obsessed with White Castle as a young child in Indianapolis. His family moved away when he was only 9 years old, but he never forgot the fabulous taste of those hot-and-steamy little Sliders. That’s why he has gone to great lengths on many occasions throughout his 70+ years to obtain White Castle whenever he can. In the mid-2000s, Richard was returning by Amtrak train to his home in Roanoke, Virginia, following a visit with his niece in California. One evening, he sat with two sisters from Indianapolis. Naturally, he talked about his childhood there and his love for White Castle. Determined to help Richard satisfy his Crave, one of the women contacted her husband, asking him to bring a Crave Case to the train station. When the Amtrak train rolled to a stop in the middle of the night, Richard stepped off just long enough to pick up the fragrant box of Original Sliders. Richard was more than happy to share a few of them with the incredulous conductor and the handful of other passengers who were still awake that time of night.

11. Matthew Peck, U.S. Air Force, Williamsburg, Virginia

“A Story for the Ages”

In 2004, Mathew Peck enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was suddenly traveling all over the world. Having read as a child about the history of the hamburger and fast food, and having watched the newly released movie “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” Matthew was eager to try his first-ever White Castle Slider. With no actual restaurants near his base, he and a friend embarked one night on a search to find the frozen burger in a retail store. After hours of searching, they finally found the well-known blue and white boxes in the freezer aisle of a local Kroger grocery store. They purchased four, went back to their base, prepared the Sliders in the microwave, and devoured them while watching Harold and Kumar on their own White Castle adventure. Years later, Matthew ventured to Times Square in New York City to experience his first restaurant Slider. “Those freshly steamed sliders took the flavor to the next level,” he said. Matthew, still in the Air Force, seeks out both the restaurant and retail Sliders whenever he travels.

For more information on White Castle and the Cravers Hall of Fame, visit whitecastle.com.