Lucy’s, an Auburn newcomer and popular neighborhood restaurant, announced that four members of its team have been recognized as winners of this year’s Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Association (ARHA) Industry Awards. All winners were announced on November 11 at the association’s awards gala in Birmingham, Ala. More details on each winner and accolade below:
Restaurateur of the Year | Lisa van der Reijden
An Auburn resident since 2006, along with her hotelier husband Hans, founder and CEO of Ithaka Hospitality Partners, Lisa was first approached by her now-partner about a vacant restaurant space in the college town back in 2017. Seeking to create a fresh, new neighborhood concept and anchor of community life with the potential to bring people together, she reconceptualized the space and transformed it into what Auburn now knows as Lucy’s – an energetic, neighborhood eatery serving modern American cuisine along with a healthy dose of warm, caring and personalized service on The Plains. Lisa is a true crusader for the developing restaurant scene in Auburn and throughout Alabama and hopes to continue to expand similar concepts across the state and the southeast.
Best New Culinarian | Brian Paolina
A native of Murrieta, California, chef Brian Paolina was first immersed into cooking while learning from his mother as a child. Since then, Brian has worked his way through the kitchens of California, Arizona and Miami before making his way to The Plains of Auburn to join the Lucy’s team where he opened as executive chef. As a part of the opening team, Paolina played an instrumental role in building the concept from the ground up all while cultivating a qualified team and building long-standing relationships with some of the region’s best farmers and vendors. Complementing his knack for recreating classic dishes, Paolina is always tapping into his Southern Californian roots to bring a refreshed version of the south straight to Lucy’s menus. Aside from his innovative twists and talents in the kitchen, Brian has also worked to build a positive and educational environment for his staff and takes time each day to advise and set his team up for success in the industry.
Bartender of the Year Competition, 3rd Place | Neil Cooper
A newcomer to the food and beverage scene, Lucy’s Head Barman Neil Cooper has quickly made a name for himself in Auburn. Neil first began his career in the hospitality industry working with corporate brands where he started as a server and worked his way through the ranks before eventually uncovering his passion for craft cocktails. He quickly fell in love with the artistry of libations, experimenting with different flavor profiles, textures, aromas but most of all, creating an experience for guests. Neil’s willingness to give every day his all paired with his overwhelming knowledge of classic drinks & off-kilter trends makes him one-of-a-kind,
Earlier this year, Neil was tapped to participate in the ARHA’s Bartender of the Year competition. Following a successful win, Neil went on to compete at the regional level which resulted in a second win that led him to be one of only four bartenders that would compete for the state title. This Monday evening, Neil took home 3rd place overall.
Back of House Restaurant Employee of the Year | Sara Lemmon
Already named Lucy’s Employee of the Year for 2019, Sara is dependable, dedicated, diligent, driven & a classic self-starter. In her role she wears many hats, but most notably is her meticulous prep work and her management and efforts to minimize food waste in our restaurant – both of which she does impeccably.
A student and local favorite, Lucy’s is quickly making its mark in Auburn’s buzzing college town. With a nostalgic name paying homage to owner Lisa van der Reijden’s childhood nickname from her father, the new neighborhood eatery led by executive chef and California native-turned southerner Brian Paolina serves up modern American cuisine in the form of small plates, seasonal entrees and a raw menu – each housing dishes that masterfully marry Paolina’s west coast background with his newly planted roots in the south. With palate-pleasing dishes that are equally as Instagram-worthy as the interior’s splash of yellow accents and natural light, the brunch and dinner menus shine with standouts including the corn + pimento cheese fritters, sweet potato + ricotta ravioli, the chicken + waffle bennie and the juicy Lucy burger – a dish that was quickly dubbed a cult favorite. Complementing the local-approved menus, Lucy’s also houses an innovative beverage program led by young newcomer Neil Cooper and an affordably priced wine list curated by Master Sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji.
Lucy’s is located at 2300 Moores Mill Road and is open for dinner Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. The neighborhood eatery also serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and lunch on Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.