More than 1,400 members of Washington’s restaurant industry packed the Omni Shoreham hotel last night for the annual Rammy awards gala put on by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. Awards are bestowed for everything from bar scene to pastry chef to manager. Which restaurateur sported the coolest clothes? Who were the most surprising presenters and guests? Read on for highlights of the night and the list of winners.
Photographs by Kyle Gustafson and Kate Nerenberg
Best interpretation of “creative black tie”: Women had more fun with the dress code—PS 7’s bartender Gina Chersevani wore a lavender dress with a showy flower in her hair—but most men were in a standard penguin-like tuxedo. We’re pretty sure Café Saint-Ex owner Mike Benson had the most creative outfit: a Scottish kilt with a blazer, tie, and sunglasses.
Best nickname for an award: Washington Post columnist John Kelly presented the award for Neighborhood Gathering Place without his copresenter, DC police chief Cathy Lanier, who was on official business. Kelly noted that Lanier said this award is for the best “loitering” spot in Washington.
Most unexpected Top Chef presenter: We weren’t surprised to see Carla Hall, our hometown hero and Top Chef season-five finalist, but we’d never have guessed that fellow contestant Ariane Duarte was going to be there. Her name was listed in the program in association with
CulinAerie, the recreational-cooking school in DC’s Thomas Circle CulinAriane, her Montclair, New Jersey, restaurant. Hall and Duarte presented Pastry Chef of the Year, which went to Kate Jansen of Willow.
Most unlikely award recipient: Nisha Sidhu and Bharet Malhotra, former techies and owners of Co Co. Sala, which won for Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene. “Who would have thought that two engineers would have won something called ‘hottest bar scene of the year?,’ ” asked Malhotra.
Best repeat presenter: Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Barbara Fairchild, who is based in New York and Los Angeles, presented for the second year in a row. She was in town Friday to sign copies of the new cookbook Bon Appétit Fast Easy Fresh at Sweetgreen in DC’s Dupont Circle.
Best acceptance speech: Although Rammy hosts asked award recipients to keep their speeches to 30 seconds, Khalid Pitts, whose wine bar, Cork, won for Best New Restaurant, refused to cut his thank-you list short. After about a minute, music started playing, Oscars style, to politely encourage him to wrap up his speech. “Oh, no,” he said, “don’t turn on that music. This is my time.” His wife and co-owner, Diane Gross, followed him with another list of thank-yous.
Funniest presentation moment: Elizabeth Glover, who presented Chef of the Year with fellow Washington Times gossip columnist Stephanie Green and last year’s recipient, Eric Ziebold, started out by singing a slurry version of “Memories.” Halfway through, she stopped herself, saying, “Oh, wait, this isn’t American Idol, is it?”
Best afterparty: By midnight, Cork was the place to be. The staff walked around offering white and red wine and a sparkling rose. We spotted such restaurant boldface names as Bourbon Steak chef David Varley; Restaurant Eve/PX bartender and sommelier Todd Thrasher; and Cathal and Meshelle Armstrong, whose Restaurant Eve won Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year.
Chef of the Year
Robert Wiedmaier—Marcel’s; Brasserie Beck; Brabo by Robert Wiedmaier; Brabo Tasting Room
Fine-Dining Restaurant of the Year
Best New Restaurant
Rising Culinary Star
Anthony Chittum, Vermilion
Pastry Chef of the Year
Kate Jansen, Willow
Wine and Beverage Program
Upscale Casual Restaurant
Power Spot of the Year
Central Michel Richard
Neighborhood Gathering Place
The Liberty Tavern
Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene
Co Co. Sala
Restaurant Employee of the Year
Juan Francisco Lopez, Marcel’s/Brasserie Beck
Restaurant Manager of the Year
Ryland Johnson, Zola
Your Favorite Restaurant (voted by online/newspaper ballot)
Duke Ziebert Capital Achievement Award
Dimitri Mallios, Alcoholic Beverage Control attorney
Where Magazine Visitors’ Choice Award
The Prime Rib
2009 Rammy Honorary Award
Billy Martin’s Tavern