Rob Masone, Rock Hill Chef and Owner of Kounter, was awarded the Epicurean Partner of the Year by the Southeast Tourism Society (STS) Wednesday night. The award is given out annually by this tourism society that represents 14 regions throughout the Southeast.

The epicurean partner award is given to a chef or restaurateur that contributes to their destination’s success overall. Visit York County nominated Chef Rob Masone, for his dedication to preserving and promoting local civil rights history, providing exemplary hospitality when hosting media and assisting area partners in curating a thriving tourism ecosystem.

A Rock Hill native, Chef Rob returned home in 2020, opening a restaurant inside the historic McCrory’s building which was home to the 1961 Friendship 9 sit-in. Restoring the lunch counter’s original top, Kounter is able to highlight this important piece of history through the focal point of the restaurant. Additionally, Chef Rob has assisted local tourism agencies with workforce development, to help create a thriving hospitality industry.

“It’s an honor to be able to represent the community that I grew up in, while highlighting the Friendship 9 history. Kounter is excited to be a small part in Rock Hill’s growth,” said Chef Rob Masone.

Offering a unique, interactive dining experience Kounter has garnered vast media attention. Working with local tourism agencies, Kounter has hosted more than a dozen influencers, bloggers, travel writers, and national media in just eight months since opening. This media attention has garnered interest not just in Kounter, but in the overall growth of Rock Hill.

“I extend my heartfelt congratulations to Chef Masone on this achievement. Rock Hill is fortunate to have Kounter help anchor the downtown area,” said Mayor John Gettys. “Chef Masone has created a place that embodies both the history and future of our City, proving that unique experiences draw locals and tourists alike.”

This will be the first STS Epicurean Award that a Rock Hill Chef has received.