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For those of you who follow every little gurgle and giggle of the restaurant industry—-and you Rockwellians know who you are—-this week has provided a mother lode of blog fodder.
Monday: This year’s James Beard Award nominees are released. The list includes numerous nods to regional food and wine professionals, particularly in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category where local chefs claim three of the five nominations: Cathal Armstrong at Restaurant Eve, R.J. Cooper at Vidalia, and Frank Ruta at Palena.
Michel Richard also earns a pair of nominations, one for his latest cookbook, Happy in the Kitchen, and another in the Outstanding Chef category, which recognizes a “working chef in America whose career has set national industry standards and who has served as an inspiration to other food professionals.” Richard’s sommelier at Citronelle, Mark Slater, is nominated in the Outstanding Wine Service category, while importer Terry Theise of Estate Selections in Silver Spring gets a nod in the Outstanding Wine and Spirits Professional category.
One thing, however, has been overlooked in all these nominations: José Andrés, who just reopened Oyamel in Penn Quarter, will join 191 others around the country as a member of the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America. Andrés, the foundation notes in its release, “is widely credited with bringing the small plates concept to the United States” with his Jaleo restaurants.
Tuesday: The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington announces its nominees for the 2007 RAMMY Awards. Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year nominees are 1789, Komi, CityZen (whose Eric Ziebold has just been named one of Forbes.com’s top ten “tastemaker” chefs), Restaurant Eve, and Vidalia. New Restaurant of the Year nods go to Rasika, PS 7’s, Blue Duck Tavern, Farrah Olivia, and in a generous nod to New Yorkers willing to slum in the District, BLT Steak.
Chef of the Year nominees include Armstrong, Cooper, Ziebold, Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel’s, and Yannick Cam of Le Paradou. But the category that I can’t figure out is Informal Dining Restaurant of the Year. The nominees include Corduroy, La Chaumiere, Pesce, Tallula, and Bangkok 54.
Yep, can’t wait to wear my shorts and flip-flops to Corduroy this summer.
Wednesday: Richard Brandenburg announces that he has left his post as chef at Urbana, after less than one year on the job at the restaurant inside Hotel Palomar. He leaves with no immediate job.
But before you jump to any conclusions, consider a few things that Brandenburg told me on Thursday: The gig at the Palomar consumed too much of his time; he hasn’t had a vacation in three years; and he’s “lost a lot of hair.” Kimpton, which owns the Palomar, wants Urbana to be a “neighborhood approachable place and not a special-occasion place,” says Brandenburg, the Reston native who has worked at Le Bernardin in New York and several spots in San Francisco, including the Fifth Floor. “I was excited to come back to Washington, quite honestly, and I thought I’d be happy doing [the neighborhood thing at Urbana]. It just wasn’t for me.”
Nor was handling the many banquets at Palomar nor all the other duties required of the hotel’s chef. “It took a lot more of my time than I would have wanted,” Brandenburg says. “I wanted to find something where I can just focus on food. Probably, I want to go for something a little more high-end.”
Brandenburg says he is entertaining several different offers, but declines to mention them. Some are in the area, some not. But he has one good reason to remain in the region: His wife, Elli Brandenburg, started work as sommelier at Rasika earlier this year.
Thursday: Nora Pouillon denounces certified organic ingredients as fraudulent, merely overpriced goods sold to an unwitting public.
Just kidding! But the City Paper does publish an interesting little review on Jack’s Restaurant and Bar, the new restaurant on 17th Street NW that has a little too much in common with its predecessor, Le Pigalle.