In an evening that included open bars, specialty cocktails, various stations with decadent food offerings, and awards highlighting local food and beverage businesses, the 41st RAMMYs on July 9 celebrated the innovative work and extraordinary resilience of the DMV’s dining industry.
The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s (RAMW) annual event served as a reminder that while businesses struggled during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many local establishments made adjustments that allowed them to not only remain open, but thrive.
General Manager of Circa at Foggy Bottom Brittany Dye, who was named this year’s Manager of the Year, emphasized the past few years have been challenging, but said internal support is what led to the restaurant’s continued success.
“It does take a little bit of thick skin, but it’s support, at the end of the day – knowing I can go to my bosses, my staff can come to me — that’s what’s gotten us through everything. Through the pandemic, through the mask mandates, fees everything,” Dye told The Informer. “It’s been a challenge, but being there for each other is what put us on top.
Though this is the first RAMMYs under his leadership, Shawn Townsend, who was named president and CEO of RAMW in December 2022, reminded the several hundred filling the Walter E. Washington Convention Center of his long-standing relationship with the food service industry. He spoke about his parents and how his father is a restaurateur and mother worked as a waitress to pay her way through nursing school.
“Like many people, the industry has been an important part of my life,” Townsend said. “I am humbled by the opportunity to lead this organization at such a transformative moment.”
RAMW continues its commitment to helping the industry to sustain local establishments. In opening remarks for the awards event, it was announced that more than 80 new restaurants opened in the metro area.
“The restaurant scene has gone into overdrive,” said Jummy Olabanji, NBC Washington anchor and one of the hosts for the evening. “As we return to a new normal, people are dining out, they have a new passion, and restaurants are thriving.”
There were three categories for special achievement and 20 awards categories.
Special honors were given in the name of giants in the D.C. area’s food service industry. The John G. Laytham Exceptional Leadership and Impact Award was given to Michael F. Curtin Jr., chief executive officer of DC Central Kitchen, for his significant contribution to the region’s food service industry and for giving back to the community. The Duke Zeibert Capital Achievement Award was given to Ris Lacoste, chef and owner of RIS Restaurant, for her excellence and community leadership.
In recognition of being in business for several decades in the metro D.C. area, nine restaurants were given the 2023 Honorary Milestone RAMMY Award: Filomena Ristorante (40 years), The Grill From Ipanema (30 years), Old Europe (75 years), Cafe Milano (30 years), Jaleo (30 Years), National Democratic Club (70 years), Artie’s (45 years), Four Sisters (30 years), and Annie’s Paramount Steakhouse (75 years).
Restaurateur of the Year was awarded to Rose Previte with No White Plates, a food and beverage collective that includes the restaurants Compass Rose, Maydan, and Kirby Club. Kevin Tien, the executive chef at Moon Rabbit, a Vietnamese restaurant that closed in May, won Chief of the Year. Employee of the Year was given to Nabil Moussa, from Le Diplomate. Pastry Chef of the Year, a new category, was awarded to Teresa Velazquez at Baked and Wired, A Baked Joint.
Accepting the award for Favorite Gathering Place, the team behind Tiki on 18th/ The Game Sports Pub came to the stage with a full-size Filipino flag. With tears, their spokesperson gave a shoutout to other Filipino food and beverage businesses in the area.
Winners Celebrate and Share Tips to Survive and Thrive
After winning Manager of the Year, Dye told The Informer she was experiencing many pleasant emotions.
“I just won Manager of the Year and it’s pretty overwhelming. It’s an honor and I’m incredibly happy and honored to be here,” said Dye, who has worked at Circa at Foggy Bottom on and off for more than five years.
Dye underscored the importance of teamwork as the key to personal achievement as a manager and contributing to the success of the restaurant overall.
“Even pre-pandemic, [then] coming out of the shutdowns, navigating this, navigating that– it was just about being there for the team,” Dye said. “Everybody was going through something, everybody was dealing with something, but we all stuck with each other and we looked out for each other, and we took care of each other.”
Kamal Azzouz, co-owner of “Urban Roast,” also shared an emotional tale when accepting the award for Best Brunch. He spoke about what it took for he and his brothers, Anthony and Joseph Azzouz, to open their restaurant on June 1, 2020, in the thick of everything shutting down. The entrepreneur stressed that family, friends and hard work allowed them to survive.
“We knew we would never give up,” said Kamal Azzouz. “Fast Forward to three years later. We have 100,000-plus followers on social media and over 2,000 reservations covered a week.
For more information and the full list of all RAMMY winners, go to ramw.org.
Source: Washington Informer