Chef Amy Brandwein: Serving the DC Community
By Nicole L. Gill, CouncilMag.com
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
Brandwein also is an advocate for women’s leadership in the culinary industry where their numbers are few.
According to an article on Forbes.com, “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.
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.