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Black tie? What D.C. chefs wear instead to the RAMMY awards

Red-sequined Converse. Kilts and ascots. Tattoos everywhere. And are tuxedo shorts really a thing?

Maybe it’s because chefs spend so much time in sauce-splattered whites that when it’s time to dress to the nines, they turn it up to 11. At Sunday night’s RAMMY awards (that’s the Oscar-night equivalent hosted by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, chefs, bartenders, waiters and other assorted restaurant types showed that their creativity isn’t limited to the dishes they plate or the artisan cocktails they muddle.

“I’m always in jeans and T-shirts,” says Denny Lyon, director of operations at Nellie’s Sports Bar, who’d just strutted the event’s red carpet (it’s actually black), showing off a tux accessorized with crimson vest, tie, socks and those glittery Chucks. “So tonight is my chance.”

As it was for Jonathan Fain, the co-owner and general manager of Bar Pilar, who sported a leopard tuxedo jacket and a matching ascot. He says the black-tie event is a chance to go more formal while still staying true to his everyday “vintage-mixed-with-new” style.

And the evening wasn’t just a rare opportunity to dress up, it  was an unusual chance for the industry to gather (no really, who was staffing the restaurants of D.C. for the night?) and do what they do best off-hours — talk shop and party. Spotted among the crowds were D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser and local celebrity chef Carla Hall.

“We’re known to appreciate a few libations,” says Geoff Tracy, the owner of Chef Geoff’s and Lia’s, and the chair of the RAMW board.  While Tracy said he planned to head home before things got too crazy, he fully expected his restaurant brethren to let loose. “They deserve it,” he said.

And they didn’t disappoint. After the awards were doled out — newcomer Red Hen was the darling of the evening, winning the best new restaurant title and “rising culinary star” for chef Michael Friedman — the party got underway. Pisco sours were drained, jackets and heels were shed on the dance floor — and those ascots? Might have been a bit loosened.