35th Rammys: Colorful, Tasty Salute to D.C. Restaurants

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Kapnos's Mike Isabella (center) with some of the staff — and, at right, Kathy Hollinger, president and CEO of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. Photo by Evan Caplan.

Thirty-fifth anniversaries are to be celebrated with gifts of coral and jade. The 35th annual Rammy Awards Gala, hosted by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, was just as brilliantly colorful. More than 2,500 people packed the Walter Washington Convention Center July 30 to salute the Washington, D.C., restaurant and foodservice industry. The city’s restaurant community has never been hotter, and these awards have never been more prestigious.

The 21 awards were presented to a dazzlingly diverse group to honor the persons who support this part of D.C. city living. Journalists, educators, and industry professionals sat on the anonymous panel of judges to decide on winners.

The Rammys also coincide with Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, which begins Aug. 14. More than 200 restaurants are participating, including several in Georgetown; prix-fixe lunches run $22 and dinners are $35.

The evening began with a cocktail hour, showcasing local oysters and produce before the awards ceremony began.

Restaurateur Ashok Bajaj of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group (Rasika, the Bombay Club, Oval Room) was presented with the Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award for his years of dedication to the Washington, D.C., food and beverage community and atmosphere. “Washington has become a world-class dining destination,” Bajaj said, beaming, to an appreciative crowd.

After the requisite Oscars joke by a presenter (“and the winner is… ‘La La Land’!”), the rest of the ceremony rolled on smoothly. If there is anything that Washingtonians are known for, it’s their knowledge of brunch. So, it was only logical that this year the voting public decided the winners in four categories, two of which were brunch-related. Convivial took the crown for Upscale Brunch, and Republic landed Casual Brunch.

Many of the winners mentioned their appreciation for the industry as a community. The spirit of the foodservice industry was certainly a recurring theme. Though not an official category, Chris Graham, the production manager at DC Brau, certainly was in the running for most original outfit, sporting traditional lederhosen. “We’ve been nominated for several years in a row, and we really needed something to put us over the top.” DC Brau took home Regional Food and Beverage Producer of the Year.

The night continued in the ballroom, where four countries — Argentina, Chile, Korea and Peru — presented their finest food and drinks. The Ambassador of Peru emphasized the “superfoods” theme and the country’s diverse gastronomy. “Ceviche is certainly the star,” he said. “But we also want to showcase our pisco as part of this joyful celebration tonight.”

Citi Open brought some tongue-in-cheek style to the event as well. It set up table tennis, with rackets, balls, and all, in a corner with astroturf. The pro tennis competition runs through Aug. 6 in Rock Creek Park. Finally, DJ Neekola, sporting a shock of pink hair, spun until 11 p.m., when the crowd turned its sights to Arroz for the afterparty.

Holly Morris of Fox 5 News said it best while presenting several awards during the ceremony: “The Rammys are truly an indicator of the caliber of culinary talent” of Washington, D.C.”

The list of the 35th Annual Rammy Awards is below.

Employee of the Year: Joseph Cassis, PassionFish Bethesda

Manager of the Year: John Grace, The Hamilton

Rising Culinary Star of the Year: Ryan Ratino, Ripple

Regional Food and Beverage Producer of the Year: DC Brau Brewing Company

Favorite Gathering Place of the Year: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

Upscale Brunch of the Year: Convivial

Casual Brunch of the Year: Republic

Favorite Fast Bites of the Year: Cava Grill

Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year: Proof

Casual Restaurant of the Year: Compass Rose Bar + Kitchen

Beer Program of the Year: Jack Rose Dining Saloon

Cocktail Program of the Year: Kapnos by Mike Isabella

Wine Program of the Year: Charlie Palmer Steak

Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year: Acme Paper & Supply Co., Inc.

Pastry Chef of the Year: Jemil Gadea, Masseria

Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year: minibar by José Andrés

Service Program of the Year: The Source by Wolfgang Puck

New Restaurant of the Year: Hazel

Restaurateur of the Year: Ike Grigoropoulos, Dimitri Moshovitis, Ted Xenohristos, Brett Schulman, Cava Group, Inc

Chef of the Year: Tarver King, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm

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