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Armstrong Hailed as Leader of Year

Chamber honors chef, local businesses.

2012 Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Business Award recipients posed for a photo after the presentation on Monday night at the Schlesinger Center with Chamber Chairman Andrew Palmieri and Chamber President John Long. The awardees are, from left, Roger Parks of American Advertising Distributors of Northern Virginia for Small Business of the Year, Executive Director John Porter and Chair of the Board Gene Steuerle of the Alexandria Community Trust for Association/Non-profit of the Year, Business Leader of the Year Cathal Armstrong, Anthony Pryor of Marstel-Day LLC for Environmentally Friendly Business of the Year, Robert Shea of Grant Thornton LLP for Overall Business of the Year  and Philip Honaker Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union and Philip Honaker for Medium Business of the Year.

2012 Alexandria Chamber of Commerce Business Award recipients posed for a photo after the presentation on Monday night at the Schlesinger Center with Chamber Chairman Andrew Palmieri and Chamber President John Long. The awardees are, from left, Roger Parks of American Advertising Distributors of Northern Virginia for Small Business of the Year, Executive Director John Porter and Chair of the Board Gene Steuerle of the Alexandria Community Trust for Association/Non-profit of the Year, Business Leader of the Year Cathal Armstrong, Anthony Pryor of Marstel-Day LLC for Environmentally Friendly Business of the Year, Robert Shea of Grant Thornton LLP for Overall Business of the Year and Philip Honaker Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union and Philip Honaker for Medium Business of the Year.

— He was 21 years old when he left his home in Ireland to take on a summer job at Murphy's Restaurant in Washington. But the luck of the Irish was on Cathal Armstrong's side when he got his green card in the 1990 lottery and ended up staying in the area, becoming one of the most celebrated chefs in the nation.

“Looking back, making the move was scarier for my mother than it was for me,” said Armstrong, who was honored Nov. 13 by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce as the 2012 Business Leader of the Year. “I was too naïve to realize all that could go wrong or that I could fail. But you have to have faith in what you are doing and be a risk taker to be successful.”

Held at the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, the annual business awards paid tribute to outstanding business in several categories, including Association/Nonprofit of the Year, Eco-Business of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Medium Business of the Year and Overall Business of the Year.

“This is a great honor,” said Armstrong, whose restaurants include The Majestic, Eammon's A Dublin Chipper, Virtue Feed and Grain, Society Fair, PX, Bar TNT and the flagship Restaurant Eve. “When you become an entrepreneur, you take on a certain level of responsibility. It's not just about making as much money as you can.”

Armstrong was selected for the chamber's top business award recipient for his dedication and exemplary leadership as co-owner of The Eat Good Food Group, an Alexandria- based restaurant group created by Armstrong and his wife and business partner Meshelle.

“Being a good leader means leading by example,” Armstrong said. “You have to care about those in the community less fortunate than you are.”

Other Business Award recipients recognized at the event include: Association/Non-Profit Business of the Year - ACT for Alexandria; Eco-Business of the Year - Marstel Day, LLC; Small Business of the Year - American Advertising Distributors of North America; Medium Business of the Year - Commonwealth One Federal Credit Union; Overall Business of the Year - Grant Thornton LLP.

“There isn't another country in the world where someone like me could be as successful as I've been,” Armstrong said in accepting his award. “This city is my adopted hometown and Meshelle and I try to honor Alexandria in everything we do.”