A composition of restaurant professionals posing almost nude to raise money for their industry
D.C. hospitality industry professionals Credit: Kevin York

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It turns out the man behind one of D.C.’s most caloric burgers has rock hard abs. How is that fair, Daniel Kramer? The managing partner of Duke’s Grocery is one of six local hospitality professionals that got nearly naked for a photo shoot with photographer Kevin York to raise money for the workers in the pandemic-ravaged restaurant and bar industry. 

“First, I had to make the burger,” Kramer says. He’s posed in front of a phone booth he had shipped from London to the Foggy Bottom location of Duke’s Grocery. “We did it early in the morning so there wouldn’t be any staff there for obvious reasons. I was cooking in an apron and shoes and not much else. You had to take the picture with the burger fresh off the grill.”

Older advertisement observers might catch that this shoot takes inspiration from a 1999 ad campaign that featured big name chefs posing nude with nothing but a Vitamix blender. Models included Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, and D.C. favorites Jean-Louis Palladin and Nora Pouillon. “Chefs are hot, in celebrity terms, and cooking has never been more cool,” reads a New York Times story from that year.

The modern interpretation comes from Revivalist Spirits, a Pennsylvania distillery founded by brothers Scott and Don Avellino. When the pandemic first hit, they stepped up and produced hand sanitizer like many other distilleries across the country. “As sanitizer became more readily available, we turned our focus to our brothers and sisters in hospitality industry,” Scott says. “We enjoy going to restaurants, but these are our customers too. We depend on them just as they depend on us.”

The Avellinos became determined to help workers in need of support while also bringing some levity to a very dark year. After a successful pilot in Philadelphia raised $5,000, they decided to bring the fun to the District.

Revivalist will donate $1 for every share on Facebook, as well as $1 for every repost on Instagram to The LEE Initiative, which turned restaurants into relief centers across the country to help laid off workers access food and supplies. As in Philadelphia, donations are capped at $5,000. The social media posts go live Monday, Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. and the campaign will run for five consecutive days.

“I’m really blown away that I’m part of something like this,” says York, a Philadelphia-based photographer. “2.4 million people in the hospitality industry are out of work. If we can just get something for somebody somewhere, that’s a win. If we can just get people to share this and get this moving around and raise awareness.”

From top left to bottom right, York shot Frank Mills of Roy Boys and Daring Kombucha Cocktails, Jo-Jo Valenzuela from The Game Sports Pub in Adams Morgan, Sarah Rosner from Swill Merchants Co., Zena Polin and Meshelle Armstrong from Hummingbird Bar + Kitchen in Alexandria, and Kramer, who also operates Duke’s Counter and Gogi Yogi

Kramer says participating was an easy “yes” once he found out who else was involved and the mission. “The hospitality community in D.C. is collaborative in a lot of different ways, and this is perhaps an even more different way,” he says. “This community does things together.”

Frank Mills and his dog, Boss. Credit: Kevin York

Mills got to pose with his 125-pound dog. “Adding Boss was a last minute thing,” he says. “They were trying to get him in a position to hide my junk, but he wasn’t that tall.” Mills is the beverage director at Roy Boys in Shaw and started Daring Kombucha Cocktails during the pandemic. You can try them on draft at his bar. They’ve also been a part of D.C.’s Back to Black fundraiser pop-ups. 

He says participating in the photo shoot was a no-brainer. “With this being something that could aid people I know, see, and cherish, I said, ‘Why not?’” Mills says. “I see the effects that COVID has had on the entirety of the bar industry nationwide as well as internationally, and we’re still far from being up to speed. There’s a lot of people who are missing wages and can’t take care of their families. A lot of loss has occurred. It moved me.” Plus, he says, “I’m not scared to get naked in front of a camera.”