Chef Amy Brandwein: Serving the DC Community

Chef Amy Brandwein: Serving the DC Community

By Nicole L. Gill,

Chef Amy Brandwein, of Centrolina is no stranger to accolades. Over the years, she has received nominations from the James Beard Foundation and the RAMMYs – the awards from the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington. This year, Brandwein was a James Beard finalist in the Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic category and she took home the RAMMY for Chef of the Year, which recognizes “an executive chef or chef de cuisine who demonstrates consistent standards of culinary excellence.”


Chef Amy Brandwein:
2018 RAMMY Chef of the Year

Serving the DC Community

Centrolina, her Italian restaurant and market, opened in 2015 in the new CityCenterDC complex.

“It is really nice to be recognized for setting and upholding standards of what an excellent Chef should be,” said Brandwein, via email. She added that such “standards are cooking innovative cuisine and consistency, but also being a positive force in your community.”

Creative food does not necessarily require exotic ingredients that are not sustainable and damaging to our environment.
— Chef Amy Brandwein

For Brandwein, sustainable ingredients are key to being a good steward of the Earth.

“I think that it is important to make our food chain better and to not be wasteful with our resources,” Brandwein said. “We should strive to use what is naturally available whether that is a vegetable, fish or meat.”

Spaghetti alla chitarra

Spaghetti alla chitarra

Centrolina’s menu uses seasonal ingredients to showcase regional food from throughout Italy. Examples include spaghetti alla chitarra, branzino – a whole Mediterranean sea bass – and tagliolini with ragu of escargot – one of Brandwein’s favorites now.


The dining room

Rosa: Roasted beets, heirloom tomato, watermelon, pesto

Rosa: Roasted beets, heirloom tomato, watermelon, pesto

Brandwein is a supporter of DC Urban Greens, an organization that grows and distributes food in largely underserved communities in wards 7 and 8 located east and south in the district.

“I am very proud of (DC Urban Greens), they are providing access to fresh, healthy food in their communities,” Brandwein said. “The understanding and appreciation of the food chain starts with being exposed to farming and learning how vegetables are grown. Not everyone in an urban environment has access to good food. Improving eating habits and health has to do with access to fresh food.”

Women are naturally inclined to be risk averse and wait for the perfect moment to do something bold, it gets in our way of achieving greatness.
— Chef Amy Brandwein

Brandwein also is an advocate for women’s leadership in the culinary industry where their numbers are few.

According to an article on, “less than 7 percent of chefs and restaurateurs are women.”

In 2017, the James Beard Foundation created the Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership program, which intends to “help female chefs and owners grow their businesses.” Brandwein was a fellow in the inaugural class that was developed with Babson College in Boston.

Brandwein recommends that women starting in the industry work for the chef who is most talented and has the best work ethic.

“Be loyal to a chef who takes a chance on you; don’t hop from chef to chef looking for the next best thing,” she said.

It’s important for Brandwein to showcase her version of success on D.C.’s culinary scene.

In her role as chef, she wants to “encourage chefs to be authentically natural in their approach to food.” And as a restaurant owner, she wants “to show the benefits of actually being in your restaurant, to be hands on, supportive and inspirational to the service team and kitchen staff.”

By being hands on, Brandwein wants to keep her focus on Centrolina.

“I would never open another restaurant unless I felt I could add significant value to the community and fill a need for something/add value and meaning to a dining experience or conversation,” she said.

Centrolina’s bar

Centrolina’s bar

974 Palmer Alley, NW
Washington, DC 20001

Brunch: Sunday: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Lunch: Monday-Friday: 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Dinner: Sunday-Thursday: 5-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 5-10:30 p.m.

Monday-Sunday: 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

District of Fashion Runway Show

District of Fashion Runway Show

Step Aside, Please

Step Aside, Please