Like D.C.’s restaurant industry, the 2023 RAMMY Awards will surprise guests.
No one celebrates food the way D.C. does. The city comes together annually at the RAMMY Awards to vote on and celebrate locally owned restaurants by looking back at the accomplishments, openings and standout meals of the previous year.
Shawn Townsend stepped into the role as the new president and CEO of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) just in time for the 2023 event.
“For so many years, D.C. was known for the White House, Congress and the federal government,” says Townsend, who grew up in his father’s restaurant. “We have shown folks through hospitality, our restaurant scene and the nightlife that we’ve birthed world-renowned chefs and created an award-winning restaurant scene.”
Townsend’s career includes a tenure as the inaugural director of nightlife and culture in the mayor’s office. In that role, he saw dining grow as part of the fabric of D.C. culture, and he also served through one of the most tenuous times in dining. He counts his work on the Streatery Program as one of the proudest moments of his career.
“To see the Streateries today still being utilized and to hear that permanent Streatery policy is being discussed makes me feel really good about the work we were able to do during the pandemic,” Townsend says.
It’s the work that was done during the Covid-19 pandemic years and beyond that will define this year’s RAMMYS.
“The RAMMYS this year speak to the importance of restaurants in our daily lives as places to come together, savor new experiences and celebrate important moments,” Townsend says. “We are excited to be out of the shadow of the pandemic in terms of this event, but also as an industry. Our beloved guests have returned to restaurants in a big way.”
The 41st annual RAMMYS will return in a big way, too, with new and unexpected food, beverage and entertainment experiences.
“Like the restaurant industry we serve, the RAMMYS strive to be a trendsetter, continually surprising guests,” Townsend says.
This year, an interactive format brings the dinner and celebration portions of the event to the main lobby of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. There will be art, sponsor activation experiences and interactive discoveries throughout the entire space.
It’s not just the format that’s new. Townsend explains that the RAMMYS represent the constant evolution of the industry, which, this year, takes the form of two new categories. The Best Bar category will highlight the nightlife scene and its significant comeback over the past few years.
Meanwhile, the Pastry Chef of the Year category has expanded to include bakers and bakeries. If you’ve sampled the dreamy cakes and cozy breads coming out of bakehouses across the city, you know this is a necessary and worthy addition.
“Like our industry, the finalists represent a wonderful and diverse range of cuisines, curated experiences and cocktails,” Townsend says. “They showcase those who have earned the clout of categories like Chef of the Year, as well as the rising stars making their names known.”
The RAMMY Awards ceremony takes place July 9 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Tickets start at $250 and can be purchased here.
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