Last night the local restaurant community paid tribute to its top performers, handing out awards touching on every aspect of the hospitality industry from food and beverage to office supplies. And while there were multiple references to wrapping things up in time to watch Game of Thrones — D.C. Council member Jack Evans joked that there’s just as much drama coming out of the White House these days — attendees seemed content to linger well into the evening.
The winners at the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s 35th annual gala included:
- Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award: Knightsbridge Restaurant Group founder Ashok Bajaj
“Washington has become a world-class dining destination … You all deserve all the credit,” Bajaj told told everyone piled into a ballroom at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. He shared the award with his staff, and dedicated the win to his parents.
- Employee of the Year: Joseph Cassis, Passionfish/Bethesda
- Restaurant 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 Co.
“This is your party. Thank you for inviting us to it,” a member of the DC Brau crew told fellow revelers.
- Favorite Gathering Place of the Year: Pearl Dive Oyster Palace
- Upscale Brunch: Convivial
- Casual Brunch: Republic
- Favorite Fast Bites: Cava Grill
- Upscale Casual Restaurant of the Year: Proof
“It takes a village. Cheers and congratulations to everyone,” Proof general manager Morgan Fausett told attendees. Fat Baby, Inc., president Max Kuller thanked his father, the late Mark Kuller, for starting the restaurant, which just celebrated its 10-year-anniversary.
- Casual Restaurant of the Year: Compass Rose Bar and Kitchen
“Thank you for giving us a chance and believing in us,” founder Rose Previte said during her acceptance speech. She is branching out this fall with globally inspired Maydan, the new restaurant her culinary team prepared for this summer by traveling to Turkey, Lebanon, and Tunisia (among other places)
- Beer Program of the Year: Jack Rose Dining Saloon
The winners posed on stage for a selfie.
- Cocktail Program of the Year: Kapnos
- Wine Program of the Year: Charlie Palmer Steak
- Joan Hisaoka Allied Member of the Year: Acme Paper and Supply Co.
- Pastry Chef of the Year: Jemil Gadea, Masseria
“It’s … been ... such ... an ... amazing …” Gadea got all choked up, grasping for just the right words.
- Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year: Minibar by José Andrés
- Service Program of the Year: The Source by Wolfgang Puck
The Source also just celebrated its 10-year-anniversary; the iconic restaurant recently said goodbye to opening chef Scott Drewno — whose new Asian fusion restaurant, Chiko, deals in dumplings, brisket, and chilled noodle dishes — and installed new executive chef Russell Smith.
- New Restaurant of the Year: Hazel
Chef Rob Rubba thanked everyone “working their butts off so I can stand here and look cool.”
Earlier this year, he showed Eater how to make his smoked onion ciabatta.
- Restaurateur of the Year: Cava Group
- Chef of the Year: Tarver King, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
“I’ve been wanting this for a long time,” King said upon receiving the award. He mentioned that his father had told him that the arrival of his daughter, which should happen in the coming weeks, would be one of the biggest moments in his life. “Till then, this will do,” King said.
Once the official business was completed, everyone let loose and just partied.
Attendees were decked out in everything from shimmering ball gowns to backwards baseball caps. Other fashion statements included: a proper Scottish kilt; a member of the DC Brau contingent in lederhosen; one fellow in a cowboy hat with companion duster; a stark white Miami Vice-style suit; and a gentleman in a Hawaiian shirt and bamboo sandals. There were plenty of visible tattoos; the Barmini crew was sporting temporary ink displaying the name of the restaurant across their necks.
Spotted: Top Chef alum Carla Hall making the rounds; 701 Restaurant executive chef Bryan Moscatello waiting in line at the MYO roast beef sandwich station; Chiko co-founders Scott Drewno ad Danny Lee hanging at one of the many bars with Salt Line co-founder Jeremy Carman; Maketto founder Erik Bruner-Yang mingling with the crowd; Hank’s Oyster Bar founder Jamie Leeds chatting with fellow partygoers.
And while food was plentiful — there was everything from spice-crusted rotisserie chicken to zesty bulgogi to baked mussels — one first-timer was clearly unimpressed.
"They should have a REAL dinner here somewhere," the elderly guest said after surveying the taste-around format.