Rasika chef Vikram Sunderam was named one of the “Best Chefs in America” by the James Beard Foundation (JBF) at its annual awards ceremony in New York City. Sunderam was named the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Chef of the Year to join nine other winning regional chefs to join the Best Chefs circle. Other nominees from the Mid-Atlantic (Washington, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania) included Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve; Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen; Cindy Wolf, Charleston and Brad Spence, Amis in Philadelphia.
The JBF states that these chefs have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions. Each candidate may be employed by any kind of dining establishment and must have been a working chef for at least the past five years. The three most recent years must have been spent in the region where the chef is presently working.
Sunderam is from Mumbai, India but spent fourteen years working at the Bombay Brasserie in London. It was there that he met Ashok Bajak, the Washington restaurateur and owner of Knightsbridge Management, LLC. that includes Rasika and Rasika West End. Sunderam came to Washington to join Bajak in 2005 in order to open Rasika.
Rasika showcases the cooking of Tawa (Griddle), Sigri (open Barbeque), Tandoori as well as regional dishes. When asked how he felt about the award Sunderam said, “I feel very humble. It is a great honor and I feel proud for my staff at Rasika and for my family.” Sunderam’s wife attended the gala at the Lincoln Center while his children (an 18-year-old daughter attends Virginia Tech and their 15-year-old son attends McLean High School) watched on the live streaming of the gala on the Internet.
One other winner from our readership area included in the journalism arena Eli Saslow of The Washington Post in the Food Politics, Policy and the Environment category for “Food Stamps.” This work also received a 2014 Pulitzer prize.
The 2014 James Beard Foundation Humanitarian of the Year honoree is Rehoboth Beach philanthropist and restaurateur Matt Haley. Haley’s charitable inspiration began while serving as a guest chef at a fundraiser in Atlanta, Georgia for disadvantaged Nepali youth. After hearing the story of a specific Nepali child in need of an education, Haley was so moved he decided to fund schooling for the child and her sister on the spot. Maintaining the relationship with the children over the years, he also expanded his work within the Nepal community to include building schools, providing education for orphans, and aiding efforts to develop economic stimulus programs in the region, such as the creation of a coffee farm to encourage sustainability. Additionally, Haley has privately funded disabled women in the country to attend culinary school. To further support the community, in 2011, Haley founded the Global Delaware Fund to provide goods and services to at-risk children and children in challenging circumstances, both in Delaware and globally.
The James Beard Foundation Awards are financed by the James Beard Foundation with partial underwriting (“sponsorship”) provided by corporations, food product associations, and other contributors.