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Sixth annual Cambridge First Day at MIT salutes local culinary community

Left to right: Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy, Chairman of the MIT Corporation Alex d'Arbeloff, Cambridge Mayor Francis H. Duehay.
Left to right: Cambridge City Manager Robert W. Healy, Chairman of the MIT Corporation Alex d'Arbeloff, Cambridge Mayor Francis H. Duehay.

The Sixth Annual Cambridge First Day at MIT celebration, hosted jointly by MIT and the City of Cambridge, was held at MIT on Tuesday, June 9.

Cambridge First Day was established by MIT President Charles Vest in 1993 to celebrate the vital economic and cultural partnerships between the City of Cambridge and MIT.

MIT honored Cambridge businesses with whom MIT has been working for 50 years or more in 1993; minority-owned and women-owned Cambridge businesses in 1994; small Cambridge businesses in 1995; Cambridge biotechnology companies in 1996; and entrepreneurship in 1997.

Cambridge Mayor Francis H. Duehay opened this year's program by presenting a City Council resolution that read: "The highlight of Cambridge First Day at MIT will be the presentation of four recognition awards to salute extraordinary Cambridge individuals and restaurants who have contributed significantly to the advancement of the culinary arts in Cambridge, and who symbolize the efforts of all who support and promote the restaurant community."

MIT Chairman of the Corporation Alex d'Arbeloff said in his remarks, "Cambridge First Day is a fitting symbol of the strength of the MIT-Cambridge partnership because together we have created an invaluable net work of people and organizations that nurtures many of the eco nomic and cultural underpinnings of our community."

City Manager Robert W. Healy, in citing the economic ties between MIT and the city, noted that 1 in 5 jobs in Cambridge is connected to the Institute directly or though spin-off companies founded by MIT faculty or alumni.

Four Cambridge chefs/restaurateurs received recognition awards at the event because they exemplify culinary excellence in the community and have made extraordinary contributions to the vibrancy and diversity of cuisines in Cambridge. City Manager Robert W. Healy presided over the awards program, and said, "The awards are given in appreciation of these individuals' contributions to the economic health and cultural vitality of Cambridge."

The awardees were:

  • Robert Jones, who graduated from MIT with a degree in Chemical Engineering, and founded Rhythm & Spice in 1994, a Caribbean Grill and Bar in Central Square specializing in authentic cuisine, live music and dancing. The restaurant's unique recipes and preparation techniques have gained favorable reviews from the media. Boston Magazine selected Rhythm & Spice's Bahamian Conch Fritters as the best appetizer in Boston.
  • Ana Sortun, who was voted "Best New Chef" by Boston Magazine. Ana combines her classical French training with Mediterranean influences and an innovative American flair at Casablanca, located in Harvard Square and owned by Sari Abul-Jubein. Ana plays an active role in Boston's food community as part of Chef's Collaborative 2000, putting local farmers in contact with area restaurants.
  • Mary Chung, owner of New Mary Chung, located at 464 Mass Ave. in Central Square, hosts many longtime patrons and friends, including MIT students who consider Mary Chung a "home away from home." Previously known as Mary Chung Restaurant throughout ten years of successful business from 1981-1991, New Mary Chung opened in 1995. The restaurant's most popular dishes are Peking ravioli, dun dun noodles, and suan la chow show.
  • Steve Johnson, as chef and co-owner of The Blue Room in Kendall Square, utilizes his culinary training from southern France and cooking experiences at several area restaurants. Well known for its innovative menus and exotic cooking, The Blue Room was redesigned in 1996. Steve relies on locally grown seasonal ingredients to create a Mediterranean-based cuisine which quickly garnered positive reviews from patrons and the media.

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