Left: The big winners of the night were Todd Gray (Chef of the Year) and Jose Andres (Capital Achievement Award). Right: Guests Lauren Westcott and Keriann Doherty enjoy a cocktail. Photographs by Kyle Gustafson
The big annual celebration of Washington area restaurants unfolded last night at the Marriott Wardman Park, where over 1,500 people gathered for the annual Rammy Awards Gala, also known as the “industry Oscars” for those in the restaurant business. A Sunday night event didn’t dissuade the crowd from donning tuxedos, floor-length gowns, and elaborate masks in line with the “Carnevale de Cuisine” theme. It also didn’t stop them from living it up before and after the winners were announced, and for the many booze smugglers—this is the restaurant industry, after all—during the ceremony.
Big winners of the night included Todd Gray, who finally nabbed the Chef of the Year title after decades of cooking in Washington, and José Andrés, who was honored with a career achievement award. Scott Drewno, who claimed Chef of the Year in 2010, came back to accept the Best Fine Dining Restaurant award for The Source. You can read about the rest of the winners, official and otherwise, below.
2011 RAMMY official winners
Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award: José Andrés
Chef of the Year: Todd Gray, Equinox/Watershed/Muse
Best New Restaurant: Estadio
Fine Dining Restaurant: The Source by Wolfgang Puck
Upscale Casual Restaurant: Tabard Inn
Pastry Chef: Tiffany MacIsaac, Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Restaurant Employee: Ryme Lansari, Café Atlantico/Minibar
Rising Culinary Star: Kyle Bailey, Birch & Barley
Restaurant Manager: Hans Olson, Clyde’s of Reston
Wine Program: Taberna del Alabardero
Beverage/Mixology Program: Founding Farmers
Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year: Ritz-Carlton
People’s Choice Awards
Neighborhood Gathering Place: Ted’s Bulletin
Power Spot: Carmine’s
Hottest Bar Scene: Chef Geoff’s—Tysons Corner
Your Favorite Restaurant: Carmine’s
Where Magazine Visitors’ Choice Award: Old Ebbitt Grill
And last but not least, our picks for the “winners” of the big night.
Prom King and Queen: Kyle Bailey and Tiffany MacIsaac
If the Rammys are the restaurant industry’s prom, then the husband-and-wife team are its unofficial royalty. The couple came to Washington in 2009 from Allen & Delancey in New York, and have been garnering awards for Birch & Barley ever since. Last night was a tandem win as MacIsaac claimed Pastry Chef of the Year, thanking Bailey as “the best husband and boss I could ever imagine,” before he took the stage minutes later to accept the Rammy for Rising Culinary Star. How did they plan to celebrate? “Head to an after-party!” MacIsaac told us.
Best Masks: David Hagedorn and Michael Widomski
Digging out black tie ensemble and finding a carnival mask during the Halloween off-season can be a headache. And that’s before the Jameson starts flowing. Washington Post columnist David Hagedorn and Michael Widomski skipped a few steps and donned gel-filled cooling eye masks. That doesn’t mean any unofficial eye wear was passable. Note to the men donning sunglasses (there was more than one): The sun may never set on cool, but Ray Bans are not carnival garb.
Best Posse: Ted’s Bulletin
Co-owner Ty Neal took the stage with a rowdy crew of fifteen to accept the award for best Neighborhood Gathering Place. “This is what it takes to get a restaurant open,” Neal said. Presenter Tom Sherwood of NBC4 had a different take. “I’d hate to see the profit sharing for this operation,” he quipped.
Best Unofficial Theme: Thanking your dishwasher
Or your busboy, servers, and all the other folks who make restaurants operate on a daily basis. Everyone from José Andrés to Kyle Bailey took time to acknowledge the workers behind the scenes. Haidar Karoum said it best while accepting the Best New Restaurant of the Year award for Estadio: “It’s not the people who usually get the attention [who make a restaurant successful]. It’s the people who show up: the cooks, dishwashers, and servers.”
Best Time Management: Scott Drewno
Maybe it was all the flack that the chef caught for last year’s five-plus minute acceptance speech. Or maybe it was the kickball injury that landed him on crutches for the evening. But Drewno kept it short and sweet, while Kuller asked that the musical overtime warning be turned off so he could continue his lengthy speech for Estadio’s best new restaurant win.
Best Use of Color: Todd Gray
Nothing says chef of the year like red pants, which is what Gray sported with his jacket and tie. Gray told us they’re his “lucky pants,” which conveniently matched wife Ellen’s dress and the bow tie of his son Harrison, who accompanied him on stage.
Best Host: Mark Kuller and the Proof/Estadio team
After the gala industry insiders gathered at Proof, where owner Mark Kuller put out a spread of cheese and charcuterie, popped magnums, and chatted up guests like Eric Ziebold, Greg Engert, Scott Drewno, and others while bar manager Adam Bernbach mixed the cocktails. Haidar Karoum brought over Estadio’s signature manchego pinxtos along with the porron, a Spanish wine pitcher that’s lifted above the head and streamlines vino directly into the mouth. Tipsy and slightly sticky guests tottered over to Mike Isabella’s newly opened Graffiato for the rumored after-after party.