By Amelia Heymann – Capital News Service
Women in beaded dresses and feathered headbands sipped Buskey cider alongside men in suits and the occasional top hat. While one might think they’ve stepped into Prohibition-era Richmond, it was the scene for Richmond Magazine’s sixth annual Elby Awards show.
Restaurant workers and foodies from all over the city gathered Sunday to celebrate the finest in Richmond’s food industry. Some came to rep their favorite restaurants, such as “Joanne the Scammer,” who wore a possum neck scarf in support of L’Opossum, a popular eatery in the Oregon Hill neighborhood.
“Everyone in our community comes to celebrate each other and for the cocktails,” said Reann Ballslee, a drag queen and guest at the Elbys. “Mainly the cocktails.”
L’Opossum and its head chef and owner, David Shannon, were the evening’s big winners. Shannon was named Chef of the Year, and L’Opossum was honored as Restaurant of the Year. In his acceptance speech for Restaurant of the Year, Shannon thanked his boyfriend as well as “this whole cast of bad-a** mother-f*****s,” aka his staff.
Other winners were:
- Best New Restaurant: Nota Bene
- Rising Star: Trevor Knotts of East Coast Provisions
- Best Everyday Casual: Perly’s Restaurant and Delicatessen
- Employee of the Year: Michael Smith of Laura Lee’s
- Brewery of the Year: Triple Crossing Brewing Co.
- Cocktail Program of the Year: The Roosevelt
- Wine Program of the Year: Secco Wine Bar
- Local Food Purveyor of the Year: Tomten Farms
- Local Food and/or Beverage Product of the Year (excluding beer): Reservoir Distillery Rye Whiskey
- RVA Dine Philanthropist of the Year: Aline Reitzer
- Culinary Students of the Year (determined by their instructors): Renne Comstock of J. Sargeant Reynolds and Anne Head of Culinard
The evening ended with a reception in the basement of the Altria where food was prepared by student chefs. Guests enjoyed everything from shrimp and grits to frog legs.
Along with food and drinks, guests were treated to entertainment during the award show. The ceremony was opened with a neo-burlesque performance by Deanna Danger Productions, featuring feathered fans and food shaped cut-outs. The entertainment also included a bartending “Jeopardy!” parody, as well as songs and dances and a slam poem.
The Elbys represented an event of appreciation. Rachelle Roberts, one of Perly’s co-owners, dedicated her restaurant’s award to her Jewish immigrant grandfather. “Without him, Perly’s would not be what it is,” Roberts said. “He taught me how to love food, how to be a good Jew and half of the recipes on our menu.”
Even employees whose restaurants were not nominated for awards spoke endearingly of their establishments. Casey McDeshen, for example, works at Kitchen on Cary with head chef Michael Macknight.
“Our chef is amazing – he’s the best person to work under,” McDeshen said. “He makes me proud to work there.”
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