Where were you last Tuesday? Swooning to Alvvays at DC9 in the cool, girl band breeze with the middle aged men who love them? Amongst the teeming masses on the national mall for the Concert for Valor aka the 5th Dave Grohl show in DC in a week? Or perhaps being visually stimulated with the more sophisticated palettes of BYT who have been running this year’s magnificent Fotoweek at the former residence of the Spanish ambassador? Point being, there was a lot of stuff going on and if anyone was going to pick up the slack, slacken their jaw and play human garbage disposal to 75+ plates of fine, regional food and desserts at the Capital Food Fight, it may as well have been me. And if I got exclusive interviews with Anthony Bourdain and Ted Allen while I was at it, icing on the cake.
I could go on and on, and I will, about the epic spectacle that chef José Andrés put together to benefit DC Central Kitchen (DCCK) to the tune of at least $700,000 this year but first it’s important to know that DCCK is a truly revolutionary program that has been anchored in DC for 25 years and even seen an expansion to Los Angeles. They dish out 5,000 meals every day that “are loaded into our fleet of trucks and distributed at little or no cost to 100 nearby homeless shelters, transitional homes, and nonprofit organizations, saving them money and nourishing their clients.” OK, that’s awesome, and it just gets better: “Our meals go out with a message: in our main kitchen, we offer a rigorous Culinary Job Training program for unemployed men and women who want to replace homelessness, addiction, and incarceration with new careers and changed lives.” If you would like to volunteer or have been court ordered to do so, more info here. If you got that paper and just want to donate, well then, buy me a sandwich but also go to this Groupon deal where your donation goes 33% further as they tack on $5 to every $10 donation.
On to the main event. The meat of the premise was that celebrity chef hosts Anthony Bourdain and Carla Hall bantered with judges like Bravo’s Ted Allen and chef Daniel Boulud on the main stage while DC area all stars battled for the Food Fight crown. Marjorie Meek-Bradley (Ripple, Roofer’s Union,) Tim Ma (Water and Wall, Maple Ave Restaurant,) Frederik De Pue (Table,) and Javier Romero (Taberna delAlabardero) stepped into the arena using a host of difficult or just plain weird surprise ingredients. (Buddha hand? Whut?)
Carla Hall was charming, sweet, and cute while Bourdain peppered the crowd with “motherfuckers” and MMA stories so theirs was a unique but working balance on-stage. Marjorie Meek-Bradley ended up edging out Tim Ma in the final battle using some of DCCK’s own relish and you can get an amazing perspective of the signature battles in these beautiful Getty images but, to be honest, the Food Fight was periphery to the battles taking place amongst the attendees on the Reagan Building floor beneath the exalted chefs.
When I arrived I received a program listing off the participating restaurants and a map and a sense of overwhelming bewilderment washed over me. It was like getting the 50 page menu at a Cheesecake Factory except the food doesn’t suck and your grandma isn’t with you. We packed in close beneath the perched view for deep-pocketed donors, or “Chairmen,” up above and were squeezed out of the VIP Speakeasy featuring cocktails from no less than nine of DC’s finest mixologists (well, not me – I was allowed to go in and drink all of it and I did) but the floor is where you wanted to be.
Stealthily maneuvering your way to the last piece of Le Diplomate’s foie gras or Taberna Del Alabardero’s rice stewed with lobster. Writhing like Gollum to myriad epicurean preciouses like Toki Underground’s snakehead tartare* or Ripple’s sausage. Tip-toe-wing in your wingtipz for the Ritz’ mushroom bisque with duck and reaching around a sequined dress to grab the last Good Stuff toasted marshmallow milkshake to wash it down. That tuna tartare with caviar was healthy so spin move around these lobbyists to grab a scoop of Dolci’s durian – yes, durian– gelato, funkier than Parliament. Dolcezza salted caramel is in my left palm now watch the long right arm grip Boqueria quail eggs and chorizo on toast.
Before stumbling out of the place in a food coma, I was able to do some hard hitting reporting. In fact, as I helped Farrah Skieky of Dolcezza/Daikaya wheel in a gelato cart, we damn near ran over Anthony Bourdain and Ted Allen, and I even got a crack at DCCK CEO himself.
Me: I think that’s Bourdain and Ted Allen, we should say hi.
Me: OK but I mean they’re right there HEY GUYS GOT THIS GELATO CART I THINK WE’RE GOING TO THE SAME PLACE COOL HUH?
Ted Allen: Cool <cigarette drag>
Anthony Bourdain: <blank stare/ignore>
The action moved to just outside the bathroom later on to an exclusive with DCCK CEO Mike Curtin.
Mike: Everybody having fun?
Me: I think I ate too much. I can’t stop eating. It’s awesome.
And finally we caught up with the #AggressivelyUnfancy DC spirits distributor Chris Schmid.
Chris: I brought you some more sandwiches, here let me put them on your plate.
Me: Dude, I have to take some pictures and try and eat some of everything.
Chris: What the hell are you talking about, you asshole, I’m going to tweet that you said that.
Me: <eats sandwiches>
Me: That snakehead tartare was good.
Chris: *Good job, you know all they do is eat shit right?
Watermarked photos by Josh Phelps, Other images by Getty, provided by DC Central Kitchen