It was a different kind of celebration that was held Sept. 19 at the 39th annual RAMMY Awards. As usual, the event celebrated the ability and accomplishments of the hard-working individuals and organizations of the Washington region restaurant and foodservice community.
But recognizing the unique challenges to the industry in 2020, the RAMMYS created new categories that also celebrated the ways that that community got creative, pivoting to ensure their survival as the pandemic changed the industry.
Held in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW), the black-tie gala had a different look and feel this year. All attendees had to be masked and present proof that they were fully vaccinated.
What didn’t change was the repast, which was varied and delivious. RAMMY guests dined on grilled goat cheese, sea scallops, sockeye salmon cakes and corned beef hash tacos. Chef Kaz Okochi (Kaz Sush Bistro) provided fire-glazed sushi; assorted pastries adorned each table. Asian vodkas, other spirits, beer and wine flowed.
Glamorous in a white one-shoulder gown DC Mayor Muriel Bowser set the upbeat tone for the event, “I can confidently say, Washington DC is healthy and open!” she declared, following Kathy E. Hollinger, RAMW president and CEO, who opened the event. Bowser added that the DC government is investing $49 million in the restaurant/small business industry to “expand, invest and bring people back to work.”
Enhanced by huge jumbo screens, NBC/Channel 4 co-anchors Leon Harris and Shawn Yancy emceed. Instead of RAMMYs’ usual “best fine dining,” “neighborhood gathering place.” “top chef of the year” awards, 2021 categories included “most innovative to-go packaging game,” most impressive pivot to provisions,” “festive foodie experiences,” “stellar brunches at home.”
In some divisions, including managers and employees of the year and good neighbor awards, everybody was a winner.
How did Capitol Hill and nearby neighborhood fare? The envelope please:
Managers of the Year: Jordan Lee, Thamee Restaurant (Atlas District); Karina Wilkey, Sunnyside Restaurant Group (Good Stuff Eatery, We the Pizza, Pennsylvania Ave. SE);
Good Neighbor Award, Individual Honors and Company Organization Honors:
Erik Bruner-Yang, Power of 10 (ABC Pony, Navy Yard); Kevin Tien and Tim Ma, Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate (Moon Rabbit [District Wharf], Lucky Danger (Chinatown pop-up); Micheline Mendelsohn and Spike Mendelsohn, National Guard Inauguration Program (when the Mendelsohns fed pizza to National Guard troops); RASA (Navy Yard).
Silver Diner (various locations, coming to District Wharf).
Stellar Brunches at Home: Call Your Mother (Barracks Row).
The 2021 Honorary Milestone RAMMY Award was presented to restaurants celebrating (surviving”) many years: Glory Days Grill (25 years), La Chaumière (45), Peacock Cafe (30) Pizzeria Paradiso (30) and Ristorante Piccolo (35).
The RAMMY judges panel also added two honorable mentions this year:
Wine To Go Program:
Local winner was Maxwell Park (Navy Yard)
And…Sweet Relief: Baking and Pastry To Go:
Local winner was Yellow (Navy Yard)
Founded in 1920, The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) is the regional trade association representing the foodservice industry in the Washington DC metropolitan area. For more information, email email@example.com or visit www.ramw.org.
With additional reporting from Elizabeth O’Gorek