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The National Restaurant Association Unveils Larger, Cooler Digs (Photos)

The organization relocates to L Street.

The new National Restaurant Association offices feature a lounge with a fireplace. The television is one of several in the duplex office complex, meant mainly for broadcasting in-house food programs. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

In a reflection of the growth industry that restaurants have become in Washington and other US cities, the National Restaurant Association has moved to larger, cooler digs in downtown Washington. The association will celebrate the new duplex offices at 2055 L Street, Northwest, with a party Wednesday night featuring cocktails from Todd Thrasher (PX, Restaurant Eve) and food from Occasions Caterers.

We stopped by the space for a tour, which included the kitchens—there are five in all—and the large event space. It holds the largest kitchen, which is restaurant-grade and equipped with high-definition cameras to shoot food segments that can be broadcast inside, on several big-screen televisions, or used for TV programs (Top Chef, perhaps?). There is also an outdoor terrace, contributed by the Trinchero Family Estates winery in Napa, California.

The NRA, which says it represents half a million restaurants nationwide, moved from smaller offices at 17th and L Streets, Northwest. The local office holds 80 of the total 225 employees; the rest work out of the Chicago office. According to CEO Dawn Sweeney, the new offices show a 20 percent growth in the NRA staff over the last decade, which she says matches the growth rate of the industry.

The new space also includes the NRA’s Education Foundation, which is celebrating a new two-year program to bring culinary training to high school classrooms. The program, according to the NRA, is offered in 1,900 schools in 48 states, including the local area, serving 95,000 students overall.

1837 Some of the National Restaurant Association’s brain trust: Christin Fernandez, manager of media relations; Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO; Marion Austin, head of office services; Sue Hensley, senior vice president of communications; and Katie Laning Niebaum, communications director.