Delaware’s food industry pauses to celebrate its strength and resilience
In keeping with the hallowed tradition upheld by many of Delaware’s best eateries, last Monday’s Delaware Restaurant Association’s 19th Annual Cornerstone Awards Celebration did not disappoint. Not that we expected anything less from our intrepid food industry trade organization. Powered by over 1,900 businesses, the Delaware restaurant community employs more than 47,000 people with an annual economic impact of over $3 billion. So they should be able to throw a pretty decent party.
After the unfortunate hiatus of 2020, this cadre of food industry notables was well-primed to toast the irrepressible spirit of their peers. Party fuel for the gala included great food, cocktails, beer and wine proudly served at a virtually endless array of stations lining the perimeter of the Dewey Beach Hyatt’s grand venue on the bay. At the stroke of 6, D.C.-based Irish rockers 19th Street Band kick-started the gala directly into high gear.
The purpose of the annual event is to honor our Rising Stars, five Delaware food industry professionals who have dedicated themselves to making a difference in their communities. Delaware Restaurant Association President/CEO Carrie Leishman summed it up perfectly: “We are extremely excited to celebrate safely and together for this year’s Cornerstone Awards. It is especially meaningful at a time when our restaurant community has been through so much, and worked so hard over these past 19 months. Congratulations to our 2021 Rising Stars who have chosen to pursue their American dream careers, and who epitomize the incredible dedication and resiliency that our industry represents.”
As a value-added, the DRA also unveiled a beautifully produced video tribute to current DRA Chairman of the Board Scott Kammerer of SoDel Concepts. Kammerer has served in the role of chairman for a two-year term (2020-21) and helped lead the industry through a perilous time in the wake of seemingly endless business restrictions and closures.
This year’s honorees are SoDel Concepts’ Corporate Pastry Chef Dru Tevis, Taverna restaurant (Newark) Executive Chef Christa Carlton, Olivia Brinton who co-owns Little Goat Coffee Roasting Company and Peach Blossom Eatery in Newark, Green Box Kitchen (Wilmington) co-owner Jason Aviles, and Megan Kee, owner of Megan Collective restaurant group here in the Cape Region.
Some of Delaware’s best treated us to delectable bites and sips. That generous crew included Woody’s Dewey Beach Bar & Grill, Bethany Blues, The Café on 26, Crooked Hammock Brewery, Dewey Beer Company, Two Meatballs Deli, Thompson Island Brewery, Stingray, Dogfish Head, Hyatt Place/Lighthouse Cove, The Starboard & Starboard Raw, Irish Eyes, Henlopen City Oyster House, Taverna Rustic Italian, Bardea Food & Drink, Sherm’s Catering, J. Artisan’s Pops (champagne ice pops!), Breakthru Beverage, NKS Distributors, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Standard Distributing Co., and Tito’s Vodka.
And this was a partying bunch! After listening to Kammerer kibitz back and forth with Leishman, foodies in the know streamed next door to the newly rebuilt Lighthouse Dewey Beach restaurant and bar for the traditional after-party featuring the Blue Cat Blues Band.
Amid the cheering and virtually endless food, our Delaware eateries have stepped up to the plate in every sense of the word. The answer to the eternal question, “What’s for dinner?” shines brightly here in Delaware, and I’m proud to know so many talented entrepreneurs and risk-takers who are genuinely dedicated not only to their craft but to our culinary enjoyment as well. And their fearless advocate, the Delaware Restaurant Association, continues to have their backs in these still rather uncertain times.