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Rammy 2010 Winners Announced.

RAMW President Lynn Breaux with Scott Drewno and Barbara Fairchild. Photo by Michael Birchenall.

Last night, Sunday, June 6, 2010, over 1,500 restaurant industry members and guests celebrated the announcement of the 20th annual Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) awards, or “Rammy’s” at the Marriott Wardman in Woodley Park, Washington, DC. Attendees were dressed to impress wearing 1940’s glam to fit the Casablanca theme of “We’ll Always Have… Restaurants” at last night’s RAMMY Awards gala. The 2010 Rammy’s gala was particularly special this year due to several changes including the new format. After 28 years, this year, in lieu of presenting awards during a seated dinner, awards were presented during a theatre-style seated ceremony. A celebration with dinner and dancing following in the Salon ballroom.

The new format came after many 2009 Rammy attendees complained that the awards presentation was too loud, hot, and lacked sufficient quality of food considering the audience of the attendees. Tim Carman of the City Paper commented that last year’s Rammy’s were like, “a sauna in the Sahara on Sunday night” and that most Chefs attending the dinner wouldn’t dare serve the food provided in their restaurants, “no chef in the ballroom would have allowed out of his own kitchen, under any circumstance.” 

Luckily, the food offered this year was fresher, more flavorful, and there was a greater variety offered. The carving food stations allowed attendees to watch as the carver sliced the chicken or beef right in front of them before placing it on plates while another culinary worker quickly drizzled it with sauce, dressed it with greens, and placed accompaniments on each plate.

Scott Drewno, Executive Chef of The Source by Wolfgang Puck in Washington, DC took home the highly coveted Chef of the Year award and 2941 in Falls Church, VA was named the Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year.

Birch and Barley team accepts New Restaurant Rammy. Photo by Michael Birchenall.

Also honored was Nicolas Stefanelli, Executive Chef at Bibiana as Rising Culinary Star; Alexandria’s Vermilion won Upscale Casual Restaurant; DC’s BLT Steak captured the title of Power Spot and Best Wine Program went to Proof. The publicly voted Your Favorite Restaurant award went to Co Co. Sala, last year’s Hottest Bar Scene winner. Birch & Barley won as Best New Restaurant and PS7’s as the first-time Beverage/Mixology Program of the Year category winner.

Michael Birchenall, Foodservice Monthly said, “The Restaurant Association celebrated the industry in a spectacle of hospitality and camaraderie that showed off DC as a culinary powerhouse. You could see from the acceptance speeches (that you could actually hear) that we still have that human, down home element that makes us different from some of the other major markets. We had three top winners (Birch & Barley, The Source and 2941) where the chefs left New York to make a lifestyle as well as professional change in their lives … they are now part of our community and we are all better for it. A splendid evening on every level.”

Mistress of Ceremonies Sue Palka, was stunning as always in her 40’s hair and gown. She concluded the awards with, famous Casablanca line, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

2010 RAMMY Award Winners:

Chef of the YearScott Drewno -The Source by Wolfgang Puck, Washington DC

Fine Dining Restaurant
2941, Falls Church VA

Rising Culinary Star
Nicolas Stefanelli – Bibiana, Washington DC

Best New Restaurant
Birch & Barley, Washington DC

Power Spot
BLT Steak, Washington DC

Neighborhood Gathering Place
Cork Wine Bar, Washington DC

Upscale Casual
Vermilion, Alexandria VA

Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene
Birch & Barley/Churchkey, Washington DC

Pastry Chef
Anthony Chavez – 2941, Falls Church VA

Joan Hisaoka Associate Member
ProChile/Wines of Chile

Beverage/Mixology Program
PS7’s, Washington DC

Wine Program
Proof, Washington DC

Restaurant Employee
Adolfo Cajchon – Seasons, Washington DC

Restaurant Manager
Mark Politzer – Bourbon Steak, Washington DC

Your Favorite Restaurant (voted by online/newspaper ballot)
CoCo. Sala, Washington, DC

Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award
Bob Madigan

WHERE MAGAZINE Visitors’ Choice Award
The Capital Grille

2009 RAMMY Honorary Award
The Monocle on Capitol Hill

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Rammy’s Winners — drumroll please …

Chef Tony Chittum accepts the Rising Culinary Star Rammy Award

Chef Tony Chittum accepts the Rising Culinary Star Rammy Award

Last Night, Sunday, June 7, 2009 the 27th Annual Rammy’s Awards Gala was hosted by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.  From the looks of the crowd of over 1,400 restaurant industry guests at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Woodley Park, I’d say that DC is in fact doing fine, just fine. Some attribute the success to the local economy to the fact that we are the nation’s capital – where government work is a sure thing. This showing of DC restaurant industry staff was a pretty good indication that the DC Restaurant scene is very much alive and well. The National Restaurant Association has reported that the DC restaurant industry is growing. Other cities are stumped and are looking to discover what DC is doing so well – this night is a tribute to what DC does so well.

The Rammy’s Awards are an effort to honor restaurateurs, chefs, and food service industry employees for their hard work and dedication to the industry that we love. This year’s “theme” was “Celebrate! Restaurants”  in recognition of how many people dine out in order to celebrate so many of life’s celebrations, including birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, promotions, and even the occasional celebration of friendship on any given weeknight.

Mistress of Ceremonies, Sue Palka, Meteorologist, Fox 5, said, “Restaurants are the real heart of the neighborhood and the community.” This was also a theme for other presenters such as Dr. J.C. Hayward, Anchor, WUSA 9 and Vice President of Media Outreach who spoke about the importance of the community and how the “future of the restaurant industry is in the hands of the next generation – with clear guidance and dedication of today’s culinary professionals.” Dr. Hayward presented the awards to young local aspiring culinary professionals for the RAMW Education Foundation Scholarships.

The Winner of the 2009 RAMMYs are:

  • Chef of the Year: Robert Wiedmaier – Marcel’s/Brasserie Beck/Brabo Tasting Room & the Butcher’s Block, Washington DC –
    • Chef Wiedmaier invited all of his staff on stage to help him accept the award. It was quite touching. Fun-loving Liz Glover and Stephanie Green, (“Glover and Green“) from the Washington Times presented the award. The ballroom roared with laughter as Liz Glover sang and then questioned the audience, “Oh wait, this isn’t’ American Idol?”
  • Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year: Restaurant Eve, Alexandria VA –
    • Chef Cathal Armstrong accepts the award with spunky wife Meshelle by his side, who kisses the Rammy trophy in her hands. Cathal says, “I was born in Ireland, but made in the USA”. The crowd goes wild. The other partners and staff join him on stage, including mixologist Todd Thrasher.
  • Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year Rasika, Washington DC
  • Rising Culinary Star Anthony Chittum – Vermilion, Alexandria VA
    • Tony Chittum was also nominated last year for Rising Culinary Star. Second times the charm for this well-deserving Chef. (see photo)
  • Best New Restaurant Cork, Washington DC
    • Khalid Pitts, accepted the award on stage along with his wife and co-owner, Diane Gross who refused to limit their acceptance speech and long thank-you list, despite the 30 second time limit. Even after the music started playing, similiarly to other awards shows, Pitt shouts “Oh, no … don’t turn on that music. This is my time!” He earned a laugh after saying, “This is my Cuba Gooding Jr. moment.” You could barely hear them – or anyone anyways – the ballroom was very noisey with chatter. 
  • Power Spot of the Year Central Michel Richard, Washington DC
    • The Honorable James P. Morgan, United States House of Representatives presented the award to Brian Zipin, General Manager and Wine Director at Central. He was also nominated for Restaurant Manager of the Year. Executive Chef, Cedric Maupillier who joined Zipin on stage was nominated for Rising Culinary Star.
  • Neighborhood Gathering Place The Liberty Tavern, Arlington VA
  • Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene Co Co. Sala, Washington DC
  • Pastry Chef of the Year Kate Jansen – Willow, Arlington VA
    • Presenters included our hometown Top Chef season-five finalist, Carla Hall and fellow contestant, Ariane Duarte. This year’s nomination was her third and in her acceptance speech she remarks, “Maybe 3 times a charm.” She also said, “This means more to me than you could ever possibly imagine,” and thanks Tracy O’Grady for her inspiration.
  • Associate Member of the Year Belair Produce Inc./Watermark Foods
  • Wine and Beverage Program CityZen, Washington DC
    • Wine Director Andrew Myers, who has been working in local restaurants for the last 23 years, accepted the award with his wife standing beside him as she drys her eyes. He’s a very memorable guy, as Myers was featured in the Washington Post Magazine last year that uncovered a very unique side of Myers including his love for “ink” and heavy metal. 
  • Restaurant Employee of the Year Juan Francisco Lopez – Marcel’s/Brasserie Beck, Washington DC
  • Restaurant Manager of the Year Ryland Johnson – Zola, Washington DC
  • Your Favorite Restaurant (voted by online/newspaper ballot) Teatro Goldoni, Washington, DC
  • Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award Dimitri Mallios
  • WHERE MAGAZINE Visitors’ Choice Award The Prime Rib
  • 2009 RAMMY Honorary Award Billy Martin’s Tavern
  • 2009 RAMMY Honorary Award Frans Hagen

 Kudos to Jill Collins and Dusty Lockhart for an amazing evening. ~ A special Thank you.

DC’s Rising Culinary Star Series

Each year the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) honors extraordinary professionals within the Washington, DC area restaurant industry at their Restaurant Awards Gala,“The RAMMYS”. Prominent restaurant employees, Chefs, and local restaurants are celebrated and recognized within thirteen award categories. In 2009, the five finalists for the “Rising Culinary Star” award are Cedric Maupillier from Central Michel Richard, Daniel Giusti from 1789, Mike Isabella from Zaytinya, Shannon Overmiller from Majestic Cafe, and Anthony Chittum from Vermilion.  As part of the “Rising Culinary Star Series”, each chef will be featured in an exclusive interview depicting their personal history, culinary experiences, and future aspirations.

Vermilion's Executive Chef, Anthony Chittum

Vermilion's Executive Chef, Anthony Chittum

Anthony Chittum, Executive Chef at Vermilion Restaurant in Old Town, Alexandria was lucky contestant number one.

Lisa Shapiro Question: What is your best or “signature dish”?

Anthony Chittum Answer:I have one per season. We change the menu each season and when that certain ingredient comes back around the following year, I’ll look at it and if I really like it we’ll put it back on the menu. We’ll tweak it a little bit.  There is a dish that we do in the winter, the roasted local rockfish that is a play on Chowder. It’s a puree with glazed celery, leek, and potato with a little smoked bacon and fried oysters as a garnish. The sauce is my “Chowder froth”. It’s definitely something that we do every year. I think it’s where it needs to be.

Q: What is your current favorite ingredient? Something that you use frequently on the current menu?

A: I’ve been playing with making my own mustard using fresh mustard seeds to create different flavors of mustards. I like mustard seeds and the heat from it much better than from pepper. Right now we have a green peppercorn, and a horseradish mustard and a basil mustard. It’s the mustard that is served with the hush puppies. We start with a basic Dijon, add maple syrup, and touch of mayonnaise.

Q: How did you get involved in the farm-to-table movement?

A: I grew up cooking in restaurants around the Annapolis area where everything is very seasonal. Some simple examples are, when Shad Roe is in season, we had it on the menu for a month and crab and corn chowder was always in the summer and we would have potato leek soup at night. When I moved to San Francisco in the late 90’s to work with Donald Link, it was just done out there. It wasn’t trendy, it’s just how it was done out there. Everyone always changed the menu. We had great local produce and we changed the menu constantly. So that was my foundation and then when I came back to DC, I worked for Todd Gray at Equinox. He was very much into seasonal food and changing the menu constantly and sourcing out the best farmers and the best products locally. In 2000, there were some restaurants doing it, but not to the extent that they are now. Now when Chefs start up their own place for the first time, it’s almost automatic and they’re changing their menus at least quarterly. People are more conscious about what they’re putting on the menu. It’s a tough competition. You have to offer the best of everything.

Q: What are your guilty pleasures?
A: I try to eat healthy, but I like pizza; but good pizza. I eat peanut butter by the spoonful. A Spoonful for me and a spoonful for the dog. I like sour patch kids. I’m not really a chocolate person. I like fruit and cheese instead of dessert.vermillion-restaurant

Q: What is your favorite dish on the current menu? (If your family came to the restaurant, what you would you insist that they try?)
A:My family came to the restaurant last week and I cooked for them. My mom doesn’t like spicy food so she had the roasted spring chicken with the faro salad with pine nuts, sugar snap peas, and currents. My Dad had the petite tenderloin & short rib “pastrami” with buttermilk blue cheese & potato galette and a little herb salad with olive oil and lemon. The pastrami is a little hot.

Q: Where do you get inspiration to create new dishes?

A: It’s a combination of a whole lot of different things; knowing the ingredients and their flavor components, and other flavor components that go with that. Everything has been done but you can tweak it to your taste. You have to go out and eat at other people’s restaurants and see what they’re doing. You can get inspiration almost anywhere. I went to Greece last summer and I got a lot of inspiration from there. When I came back from Greece, I played with some of the things that I loved when I was there. One of the dishes that we’re offering at the farm dinner coming up, such as the mixed grill with a combination of rabbit, beef, bison, from New Frontier Farms in Virginia, all different cuts. It’s a dish that I had at little restaurant on the water in Mykonos. We also did a beefsteak grilled flat bread, stuffed with feta, and a little bacon. I also loved the Loukaniko, or Greek sausage that I had in Greece. When I came back, I tried to recreate it. We put it on the menu for a little while.

Q: What are your current favorite restaurants?

A: I like Duangrat’s. I get the chef’s special pork and their black pepper calamari, it’s really good. I like going to Bastille in Old Town, it’s about a block from my house. They’re great friends and they always have something good on the menu and they have delicious desserts.

Q:You were nominated for the 2009 RAMW Rising Culinary Star Award. If not you, who will win?

 A:It’s a tough call. Cedric Maupillier works with Michel Richard, who is one of the best chefs in the country. It’s a great restaurant with a great reputation and a good following and it gets a lot of press. People know him. I assume that he will win.  But I love Zaytinya. It’s one of my favorite places to eat. The food is one of the closest things I have had since I went to Greece. Their chicken eggdrop soup with lemon is awesome. They have great food there.  I’ve also been to Majestic three or four times. It’s another great old town restaurant with great food and nice people.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

A: Like most Chefs, I’d like to own my own restaurant. It would definitely be in the DC area. I grew up in Maryland. This is where I belong. I love it here.

Stay tuned for other exclusive interviews with DC’s Rising Culinary Stars. Cedric Maupillier from Central Michel Richard and Daniel Giusti from 1789, are next. The Rammys will be held on Sunday, June 7, 2009. There will be a follow-up feature about the winner of the Rising Culinary Star award and coverage from the Rammy’s awards Gala.