About 500 people attended Richmond magazine's third annual Elby Awards tonight to honor the Richmond region's restaurant community. Named after the acclaimed Chef Paul Elbling of the former La Petite France, the Elbys are the only local event that recognizes and honors the work of local chefs and restaurateurs.
Travis Croxton of Rappahannock was named 2014 Restaurateur of the Year. Croxton, along with his cousin Ryan Croxton, began with the Rapphannock River Oyster Co. He opened his first restaurant, Merroir near his Topping, Va. oyster farm, and in addition to Rappahannock, owns three restaurants in Washington: Rappahannock Oyster Bar, Eat the Rich and Southern Efficiency. This year, Croxton was named by Zagat as one of the Restaurant-World Power Players Around the United States.
Church Hill's The Roosevelt took Restaurant of the Year honors, and its chef, Lee Gregory, was named Chef of the Year. Gregory, semifinalist for the James Beard awards' best chef in the mid-Atlantic, worked under Acacia's Dale Reitzer, headed up the kitchen at Six Burner, and was at Mockingbird in Staunton and Blue Light Grill in Charlottesville before opening The Roosevelt with Kendra Feather in 2011.
Phil Perrow of Dutch. & Company is this year's Rising Culinary Star. Perrow, a former sous chef at Acacia, attended Johnson & Wales University and is co-owner of Church Hill's Dutch & Co., which opened in 2013.
For the first time, this year's awards asked the public to vote for its Favorite Neighborhood Restaurant. Garnett's Café in the Fan was the winner in this category. It's one of 2013's Elbys restaurateur of the year Kendra Feather's three restaurants.
Local dining scene advocate and former Richmond magazine food writer Hollister Lindley received the 2014 Legacy Award for her vast culinary knowledge and her contributions to the Richmond food scene. "Hollister shoots straight from the hip all the time and that's why the restaurant community values her so much," said Susan Winiecki, Richmond magazine's editor-in-chief and founder of the Elbys.
The evening's other winners include:
- Best New Restaurant: Estilo
- Excellence in Service: Lemaire
- Front of House Manager: Michele Jones of Pasture
- Beverage Program: Dutch & Company
- Wine Program: Enoteca Sogno
- Pastry Chef/Baker: David Rohrer of WPA Bakery
- Culinary Students of the Year: John Michaels of Culinard and Celeste Bolling Eisinger of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
Last fall, Richmond magazine solicited this year's Elby nominations from more than 25 members of Richmond's food community including bloggers, instructors, cookbook authors, restaurant reviewers and food writers. A panel of local, regional and national judges not affiliated with Richmond magazine then visited the nominated restaurants between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013, and rated their dining experiences.
Brandon Fox, Richmond magazine's food editor, and Jason Tesauro, author, sommelier and "Richmond's most gregarious modern gentleman," hosted the sold-out event held in the Cheek Theater at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Event sponsors included Performance Food Service, KOR Food Innovation, Bandazian & Holden, Double Take Video, Virginia Wine Board, Restaurant Depot, Maureen Massey, Coastal Sunbelt, Reliant Fish Company, Richmond Region Tourism, Virginia Linen Service, Adams-Burch, Olli Salumeria, Piccola Cellars, Vintap, Virginia Artesian Water, Taste the Local, Steady Sounds, Culinard and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.
"The Golden Age of Hollywood" after party in the VMFA's Marble Hall featured a buffet inspired by classic films and prepared by culinary students from Culinard and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Mechanicsville-based Olli Salumeria provided charcuterie. A bourbon-based signature cocktail, The Elby, was created by KOR Food Innovation.
Net ticket proceeds from the event will benefit the nonprofit Shalom Farms, Slow Food RVA, Tricycle Gardens and the VMFA Foundation.