The 2015 Elby award was a white platform shoe with the annual event's signature chef logo. Richmond magazine hired Big Secret to create the laser-engraved, custom award.
A record crowd of more than 500 guests turned out in polyester and platforms for the fourth annual Elbys, the Richmond region’s restaurant awards, presented by Richmond magazine.
Named after master chef Chef Paul Elbling who now oversees the French Food Festival, the Elbys are the only local event that recognizes and honors the work of local chefs and restaurateurs. This year’s awards ceremony and reception were themed “Studio 804,” a tip of the hat to New York’s former Studio 54.
Judges named Joe Sparatta Chef of the Year and named Heritage, which Sparatta co-owns with his wife and brother-in-law, Restaurant of the Year. Sparatta, who was recently named a D.C. Rising Star Chef by starchefs.com, came to Richmond in 2011. Prior, he worked at The Ryland Inn, which at the time was the only restaurant in New Jersey to be awarded four stars by The New York Times. He also received training with chefs David Bouley, Eric Ripert, and Michael Laiskonis before joining Chef Scott Anderson to open elements in Princeton, New Jersey, where he had the roles of sous and pastry chef.
Travis Milton, chef de cuisine at Comfort, was given the Innovator Award for his work with preserving and passing on Southern and Appalachian foodway traditions. He is member of the board of the directors for the Virginia Food Heritage Project, the Central Appalachian Food Heritage Project, The Clinch River Valley Initiative and the Appalachian Community Table.
Other winners were:
Best New Restaurant: L’Opossum
Opened between Nov. 1, 2013, and Oct. 31, 2014
Richmond Stalwart: Acacia mid-town
This area restaurant must have been open a minimum of five years as of Nov. 1, 2014
Rising Culinary Star: Brittanny Anderson of Metzger Bar & Butchery
Cocktail Program: The Rogue Gentlemen
Wine Program: Acacia mid-town
Beer Program: Saison
Employee of the Year: Kirby Baltzegar of Dutch & Co.
Purveyor of the Year: Autumn Olive Farms
Culinary Students of the Year: Jeremy Evans, who trained at Culinard, The Culinary Institute of Virginia College, and Holly Mitchell of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
More than 30 local industry professionals, food writers and culinary instructors selected nominees. Awardees were chosen by 11 separate panels of judges, one panel for each category, all from outside Richmond. No full-time staffers of Richmond magazine were involved in the nominating or judging process.
Judges included online food editors from places like Eater and The Daily Meal, a four-time, James Beard-nominated chef, representatives from the Association of Food Journalists, magazine editors from publications such as Beer Advocate and Southern Living, food editors and reviewers from major daily publications in D.C., Tidewater and North Carolina, teaching chefs and staffers from Johnson & Wales, and D.C.-based hospitality and wine professionals. The panelists visited the restaurants independently of one another between mid-December and mid-January.
Stephanie Breijo, 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, Cavalier Produce, Kitchen on Cary, Mercedes Benz of Richmond, Double Take Video, Sam Rust Seafood, Short Pump Town Center, Richmond Region Tourism, Steady Sounds, Milton’s Local, Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, Virginia Linen Service, Virginia Wine Board, Maureen Denlea, Adams Burch and Virginia Grown.
Other community partners with the pre-reception and reception included 103.7 Play, Virginia Artesian Water, Taste the Local, Tap 26, Belle Isle Craft Spirits, Steady Sounds, VMFA, Culinard and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.
Net ticket proceeds from the event will benefit the nonprofit Shalom Farms, Slow Food RVA, Tricycle Gardens and the VMFA Foundation.
For a complete list of nominees or additional Elbys information, please visit richmondmagazine.com/elbys.