It is Monday, the day after the North American music industry’s gala awards ceremony, the Grammy’s, aired on television. Just as the Grammy’s have suffered a successive losses of viewership, I have had to take pause to ask a question. I am currently staring at two lists of culinary awards issued to restaurants in the National Capital Region: awards from the 16 annual gala (2009) for the Ottawa Restaurant Hotel Motel Association (ORHMA) and Ottawa’s “Epicurean Awards.” Both lists include many of the “usual suspect” restaurants. Both lists are long, leading me to wonder, “Are there more awards than there are restaurants in Ottawa?”
From the ORHMA Gala,
- “Bill Joe Restaurateur of the Year” went to Ion Aimers, founder and owner of the chain of The Works Gourmet Burger Bistros
- “MAC Knife Chef of the Year” (Top Chef) went to executive chef Matt Carmichael of Restaurant E18hteen and Social
- “CHEZ 106 Ottawa?s Favourite Restaurant” went to three locations of the Keg
- “Lifetime Achievement” went to Ottawa Citizen Food columnist Gay Cook
- “Ottawa Citizen Service Person of the Year” went to Nawal Roukos of the Newport Restaurant
A giant whisk was awarded to the host, Westin Hotel’s, chef, Nelson Borges, whose cinnamon seared Mariposa Farms duck was voted best dish of the event.
Last year’s winner of the “Bill Joe Restaurateur of the Year” was Dot Janz of Black Dog Bistro. Top Chef went to Derek Benitz of Benitz Bistro. “Lifetime Achievement” went to chef Kurt Waldel of the National Arts Centre.
Regarding Aimers, according to the Ottawa Citizen, he graciously accepted his award, remarking how lucky he was to be able to attend the event. Last April, he suffered a massive heart attack, spending 5 days in a coma. He celebrated his award with 20 managers and employees he brought with him as his guests at $125/seat.
Proceeds from the gala go to the Algonquin College student bursary fund. On a related note, Chef Carmichael was also celebrated at the gala for working with students enrolled in the Algonquin College Culinary Program.
From the The Epicurean Awards,
- “Linda Thom and Robert Bourassa Café Henry Burger Trophy” (Chef of the Year) went to Serge Rourre from Le Baccara
- “Three Stars Epicurean” Awards went to 3 restaurants: Le Baccara, Beckta Dining & Wine, Restaurant E18hteen, and Perspectives Restaurant
- “Two Stars Epicurean” Awards went to 20 restaurants: Absinthe, A’Roma Meze, Bella’s Bistro, Benitz Bistro, Canvas, Chez Eric, Coconut Lagoon, El Meson, Juniper Kitchen and Wine Bar, Murray Street, Napo, Navarra, New Dubrovnik, La Roma, Restaurant Les Fougères, Trattoria Caffé Italia, Urban Pear, Vineyards Wine Bar Bistro, Wellington Gastropub, Whalesbone Oyster House
- “One Star Epicurean” Awards went to 4 restaurants: Castlegarth Resaurant, Petit Bill’s Bistro, Poco Pazzo, Sweet Grass Aboriginal Bistro
- “Best Wine Experience” Award went to Le Baccara’s Sommelier Danielle Dupont
Conspicuously absent this year were last year’s awards for “Regional/Specialty/Ethnic” and “Best Service.” The list from last year was equally as long.
Award winners were chosen by public survey. Entries were submitted between July 25, 2008 and October 15, 2008. Results were announced during this year’s Ottawa Wine and Food Show.
While the Epicurean Awards seem to give awards to any restaurant with three submitted entries, the ORHMA are issued by industry peers. Honestly, why would anyone bother to spend 10-30 minutes filling in an Epicurean Award survey entry if the requisite restaurant didn’t earn at least a 70% in your books. You would be spending more time rating the restaurant than you did partaking of the meal. Conversely, judging from the proceedings reported by food columnist, Ron Eade, on the Ottawa Citizen’s Omnivore Blog, the ORHMA seems to be a must-attend event of the year for Ottawa’s culinary industry.
As someone who has limited funds to dine out, I will take the ORHMA results into consideration along with the Ottawa Magazine’s Christ Knight’s best and brightest when choosing my next fine dining destination.
Speaking of which, here are Ottawa’s “Top Picks” according to the Ottawa Magazine for 2008:
- Beckta Dining and Wine (Chef/Owner: Michael Moffatt/Stephen Beckta): 226 Nepean Street – (613)238-7063
- Domus Café (Chef: John Taylor): 87 Murray Street – (613)241-6007
- Le Baccara: 1, boulevard du Casino – (819)772-6210
- Restaurant E18teen (Chef: Matt Carmichael, protegé of Susur Lee): 18 York Street – (613)244-1188
- The Wellington Gastropub (Chef/Owner: Chris Deraiche): 1325 Wellington Street – (613)729-1315
- Benit Bistro (Chef/Owner: Derek Benitz): 327 Somerset Street West – (613)567-8100
- Allium (Chef/Owner: Arup Jana): 87 Holland Avenue – (613)792-1313
- The Urban Pear(Chef/Owner: Ben Baird): 151 Second Ave., Unit C – (613)569-9305
- Les Fougerès(Chef/Owner: Charles Part): 782, route 105, Chelsea – (819)827-8942
- Signatures by Le Cordon Bleu: 453 Laurier Avenue East – (613)236-2460