The Elbys are Sunday and (what feels like) the whole town (but is most likely a minority of very food focused individuals) has gone GA-GA! The local Twitterverse and RVA social media have been consumed. I am no exception, having spent much time and thought on not only the award categories and the nominees themselves, but many hours on the more exciting aspects of dress! hair! make-up! This year, Richmond’s premiere restaurant industry event somehow feels different. A bit more exciting. More…defining.
Since 2011, but specifically in the last 18 months, our city-town (as I lovingly refer to it) has become very serious about food. Well, maybe not SO serious, but certainly people involved in food in Richmond, whether it be restauranteurs, chefs and cooks, coffee roasters, distillers, brewers, farmer’s market vendors, growers, food trucks, even those covering our food scene- all have been stepping up their game.
Sure, there have always been committed culinary folks, pioneers carving the way, whether or not RVA was ready for it. However, there is definitely a new movement afoot, Elbys founder and Richmond Magazine editor Susan Winiecki mentioned it taking shape when I interviewed her last year. Watching our chefs and eating establishments in national magazines on a now semi-regular basis is a sign. The influx of outsiders who wish to open food businesses here, yet another. The number (hordes?) of entrepreneurs opening groceries, eateries, bars, hospitality consulting firms, under-ground supper clubs and high-concept ventures-a clear guarantee to where we are headed.
All of this is wonderful news of course! Who doesn’t love a food town?
But with any local awards event, now matter how miniscule or insular, it’s inevitable that people feel slighted, egos grow or are shattered and cynics call phooey on the whole shebang. Well, I’m writing this to say, we ain’t got time for sour grapes people! We are in this together-the many before us, the plenty whom are presently busting hump unnoticed and those who are or will soon be leading the way. Richmond deserves the recent attention we’ve received. We deserve it because we are growing together, pushing each other, and promoting our city as a whole, and not just individually.*
It’s important for the food community get together, to acknowledge, celebrate and inspire each other-awards or not.
I am overjoyed at the opportunity to recognize the efforts of those working toward not just our potential as a food destination, but as a city where visitors and locals alike can eat fantastic meals- from the high minded to the humble and feel welcome at Richmond’s collective table.
*True, there are those just out for themselves, we know who you are.