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At a time when it was needed the most, kindness, happiness, and charity won out, and D.C. was once again reminded it has a tight-knit food service community.

Chef José Andrés hosted the 13th annual DC Central Kitchen Capital Food Fight, an event that drew over 1,000 guests to taste offerings from more than 75 of D.C.’s best restaurants while watching four local top chefs compete in a live onstage battle.

The brainchild of Andrés, the event celebrated its thirteenth year in 2016. And, as always, 100% of the event’s proceeds benefitted DC Central Kitchen, a D.C.-based organization that uses food as a tool to change lives. DCCK provides nutritious meals for nonprofit partners and District schools, equips unemployed men and women to begin culinary careers, and engineers successful social enterprises that advance its mission and create jobs for those served by the program.

There was a ton of good food, sure, and watching local chefs George Rodriguez of Tico, Samuel Kim of 1789, Theary So of Hank’s Oyster Bar, and Andrew Markert from Beuchert’s Saloon kick ass during the battles was a great time (mad props to Chef Kim, the eventual champion), but the event really was much more than that.

I don’t think I’m alone in the shock and disappointment felt after last Tuesday night’s results; thankfully, this year’s Capital Food Fight was a loud and proud declaration that we can rise above our baser instincts, come together and support one another.

Andrés, naturally, was the ringleader, serving as the night’s emcee (along with other local darling Spike Mendelsohn) and unabashedly rocking an “I AM AN IMMIGRANT” tee. Whether it was tossing green beans and popcorn into the crowd (really milking those “secret ingredient” sponsorships for all they’re worth); making it a point to call attention to the often-neglected back of house staff from local restaurants; teasing celebrity judges Duff Goldman, Rusty Hamlin, and Michael Voltaggio; or encouraging all the local chefs who’ve appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef show to come onstage for an impromptu cooking battle, Andrés proved once again that he’s a vital part of the D.C. community. The fact he was barefoot almost the entire time (showing off his “pedicure,” he said) only added to the sense of fun and whimsy of the evening.

Bottom line: when the ticket sales and auction items were tallied up, the event raised a whopping $694,000 for DC Central Kitchen. That’s some serious cash, all destined to continue to the seriously good work being done by DCCK. Attendees raised their glasses at the end of the night to an impassioned closing speech by Andrés, who urged attendees to respect one another, even after an ugly and, at times, unbearable election cycle.

No one said the next four years are going to be easy. But, through charitable events and a committed effort toward mutual respect and open dialogue, all of us can certainly do our part to help.