OCEAN CITY – The 2008 Restaurant Association of Maryland “Stars of the Industry” Awards Gala was held last week, bringing recognition to several local businesses that received nominations and yielding two award winners from the area.
The 54th Annual McCormick & Company “Stars of the Industry” awards celebration and awards presentation took place on April 28 in Baltimore with over 800 attendees present. Nominations come from the members of the Restaurant Association of Maryland with the winners chosen via voting from the general public. Nominations were announced earlier this year and public voting began shortly thereafter, with over 30,000 votes coming in.
Local businesses recognized through nominations were Solstice Grill, Favorite New Restaurant; Gary Leach of the Ocean City Convention Center, Chef of the Year; Sunset Grille, Favorite Restaurant; and Seacrets Bar and Grille, Favorite Bar or Tavern.
Gary Leach, Executive Chef of Centerplate, which handles food operations at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center took home top honors with the Chef of the Year Award. Leach was up against top chefs from around the state including Chef Cindy Wolf, Charleston; Chef Michael Gettier, Antrim 1844; Chef John Shields, Gertrude; Chef Jason Tepper, La Miche; and Chef Michael Tersiguel, Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant.
“Personally, I think it’s a great compliment,” said Leach, who’s been with the convention center for five years. “I’m elated, it’s a very noble honor and I’d just like to thank all of the people that voted for me.”
Leach described his craft as Eastern Shore cuisine, with an emphasis on catering.
“We cater to the details of the customer’s specifications. Everything is custom tailored to our guests,” he said.
Besides bringing recognition to the Convention Center, Leach was delighted to bring recognition to the shore and Ocean City, giving a nod to all of the other local nominees, as well as fellow winner, Seacrets.
Seacrets also received high honors, with the receipt of the Favorite Bar or Tavern award. Seacrets was honored last year with a nomination, but did not return home with the award. Seacrets came out on top this year, however, taking the honor over nominees from around the state, Brewer’s Alley, Havana Club, Max’s Taphouse and Martini’s.
“It’s probably the highest honor that I’ve ever received and we’re really elated to get it,” said Seacrets owner Leighton Moore. “Its probably the biggest honor, to be nominated by the members of the Restaurant Association and then even bigger, on top of that, to be voted on by the general public, the people that go out and frequent all of the establishments.”
When asked what it is that makes Seacrets the favorite bar for so many, Moore said it’s the mix of diversity and consistency that Seacrets provides.
“People from [age] 21 all the way to 90 come in,” he said. “There’s great food and secluded areas where you can go. You can come in with large groups or a party of two. It’s all ages, you can pretty much find everything you’d want here.”
Moore noted that while this is his first year receiving the honor and second year as a nominee, he hopes to continue to live up to the title in the future.
Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, was thrilled with the local nominations and award winners.
"I was so delighted when I heard Gary and Leighton had won. We have so many talented people and great places right here in our backyard. They are both very deserving winners,” Jones said. “The Convention Center will be able capitalize on Gary’s talent and market that they have the Chef of the Year preparing the meals for convention attendees.”