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The Nora Pouillon party starts Sunday

Chef-restaurateur-pioneer Nora Pouillon. (Juan Carlos Briceno)

She has attained one-name status: Nora.

As in Pouillon, co-owner and exec chef of Washington’s Restaurant Nora, the first certified organic restaurant in America. She has earned kudos from the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the American Horticultural Society, the Campaign for Better Health, the Organic Trade Association and from D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, for environmental excellence. She’s had a documentary made about her evolution from young Austrian immigrant to organic-movement pioneer, called “Nora!,” of course.

And Sunday night, Nora will accept the Genesis Award from Women Chefs & Restaurateurs -- which just might be her favorite honor to date. (No spoiler here; she was told about it a month ago.)

“When Nora [the 30-year-old restaurant] became certified organic 10 years ago, nobody honored me then,” she says. “I had to call up The Washington Post and beg them to write about it. Is it okay to say that?”

Yes, Nora.

Nora Pouillon, naked with her Vita-Prep blender in a 2000 ad campaign. (Food Arts Magazine)

“To me, this award brings awareness: that it’s possible to run a successful business, support local farmers and live a more sustainable, healthful life," she says.

Nora’s her own best PR machine, looking fabulous at 66. She eats all organic, mostly at the restaurant. A quick spin through Post photo archives yielded this “naked with a blender” ad, shot in 1999. “I was the first woman chef they asked to be in that campaign” for Vita-Prep, she says. “I told them if I weren't so old I wouldn't be so flattered.

"I’m still in good shape, aren’t I?”

You bet, Nora.

Nora (the restaurant) must be recertified every year. To do so, Nora (the chef) must prove that 95 percent of her ingredients come from certified organic sources. A certifier is sent to check invoices and poke around the building, at the corner of Florida Avenue and R Street NW. The 5 percent that Nora still finds hard to source organically includes spices, Asian sauces and curry powders. Only a handful of restaurants in the United States are now certified, she says, but she's gratified to see so many more are using organic products: "I'm getting an award, so it must be mainstream."

With her business partners, Steven and Thomas Damato, and one of her four grown children, Nina, on hand, Nora plans to tell the WCR gala audience at The Ritz-Carlton that women have an enormous influence on food in this country. “We feed customers, our children, our families. We can choose cleaner food, organic food. We can really change the whole health issue . . . . Women have the power to do that,” she says.

“I’m hoping my fellow women chefs will be inspired. I did it. They can do it, too.”

-- Bonnie Benwick

By The Food Section  |  October 28, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Chefs  | Tags: Bonnie Benwick, Nora Pouillon, Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, conventions  
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Next: 'Top Chef' Tweeting: Natalie and the veggie game


Great article--and well deserved. Restaurant Nora is now on Twitter:

Posted by: grassfedmedia | October 29, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

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