OCEAN CITY — The Restaurant Association of Maryland (RAM) last week announced the nominees for its annual awards, and the resort area is again well represented with a local establishment nominated in nearly every major category.
RAM will hold its 59th Annual “Stars of the Industry” gala in April, showcasing some of the top restaurants in the state in several categories. Among those nominated were de Lazy Lizard owner Wayne Odachowski and Fish Tales owner Shawn Harman for “Restaurateur of the Year,” while Shark on the Harbor owner and executive chef Travis Wright has been nominated for “Chef of the Year.”
In addition, the Captain’s Table has been nominated for Favorite Restaurant, while Macky’s Bayside Bar and Grill and Dead Freddie’s Island Grill have been nominated for Favorite Bar and Tavern.
For de Lazy Lizard, Odachowski’s nomination for Restaurateur of the Year comes on the heels of the establishment’s win in the Favorite New Restaurant category last year. Odachowski said this week he was honored to be nominated as an individual and deflected much of the credit to his partner and staff.
“Owning and running a successful restaurant business is truly a team effort,” he said. “I couldn’t have been nominated if it weren’t for the extraordinary effort of my business partner, Todd Hays, our loyal management team and our dedicated staff.”
Odachowski said the nomination reflects an acknowledgement by the industry and the public that his establishment is doing things the right way.
“As I understand it, the decision to be included on the ballot was made by the general voting public, past nominees and the gala committee,” he said. “It is a great feeling to have been selected by my peers in the industry and to be in the company of the others that have been nominated for this award. Ocean City is well represented this year. I wish all of the local nominees good luck.”
For Harman, his nomination for Restaurateur of the Year also comes on the heels of a recent RAM award victory for his establishment. Fish Tales was honored with the Favorite Bar or Tavern award in 2011 and Harman was quick to share the praise.
“It’s very humbling,” he said. “I was really taken aback when I heard I was nominated, but I certainly can’t take all of the credit. My wife, Donna, and [manager] Danielle really make it happen. I just get the credit.”
Meanwhile, Wright said he was extremely pleased to be considered among the candidates for Chef of the Year.
“I was totally caught off guard by this,” he said. “There are some heavyweights on this list and real legends in the area, so to be even thought of remotely with them is very special.”
Like his fellow nominees in and around the resort area, Wright shared the spotlight with his crew and deflected the individual honor.
“It’s a little weird to be recognized as an individual because the way we operate is a very collaborative process,” he said. “We foster an environment of creativity and bounce new ideas off each other every day, so for one person to get the lion’s share of the credit isn’t entirely accurate.”
The six nominees on the RAM ballot this year continue a recent run of great success for the Ocean City restaurant industry.
Last year, for example, de Lazy Lizard was named Favorite New Restaurant, while Shenanigans was named Favorite Bar or Tavern and Bill and Julianne Gibbs were honored with the Brice and Shirley Phillips Lifetime Industry Achievement Award.
In 2011, B.J.’s on the Water owner Billy Carder was named Restaurateur of the Year, Sunset Grille was named Maryland’s Favorite Restaurant, Fish Tales was named Favorite Bar or Tavern and the Greene Turtle was honored with the McCormick Cornerstone Award and was inducted into the RAM Hall of Honor.
Wright said the past winners and current nominees represent a shift in Ocean City’s place on the state’s culinary landscape, and a change in the perception of the resort area as simply a pizza and French Fry destination.
“It’s really a testament to the success of this industry and how far it’s come in our neck of the woods,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit community and everybody around here really supports everybody else.”
Harman agreed people around the state are recognizing Ocean City’s contributions to the state’s restaurant industry.
“It’s nice,” he said. “There are several local businesses in the running for different awards, and the nice thing about around here is that we’re not running against each other, but with each other.”
RAM strongly urges the dining public to cast their votes for their favorite nominees in each category by visiting www.marylandrestaurants.com/gala. The voting is open until March 8 and the winners will be announced at RAM’s “Stars of the Industry” gala at Martin’s West in Baltimore on April 15.