There is nothing subtle about D.C. Central Kitchen’s annual fundraising event, Capital Food Fight. In its 16th iteration, Capital Food Fight is a cacophony of noise, food, and energy reflective of the event’s enigmatic founder, José Andrés. There is so much of everything that trying to keep track of your bearings is about as hopeless as trying to decide which of the 80 participating restaurants had the best dish. And yet, all of that loose energy has a purpose because while the duality of having José Andrés play hype man paired with endless food sounds overwhelming, it serves to create an atmosphere tantamount to a hot Craps table in Vegas.
See, the beauty behind the Capital Food Fight, and why it sells out every year, is that it deals with the very serious problem of malnourishment by making you forget what that word even means. The entirety of The Anthem is awash in food while the main stage plays host to a cooking competition between talented local chefs. This year’s lineup featured eventual winner Marcelle Afram of Bluejacket, Kyoo Eom of Dirty Habit, Adam Greenberg of Coconut Club, and Johanna Hellrigl of Mercy Me. I must admit that I didn’t follow the competition all that attentively but I was a bit awestruck to be so close to the GOAT and one of the competition’s judges, Tom Colicchio. In fact, it was actually pretty surreal to have a beer in one hand, a cocktail in the other, and a plate of something delicious from Stellina Pizzeria balanced in between both while watching Andrew Zimmern, Tom Collichio, Ryan Zimmerman, Maneet Chauhan, Carla Hall, and Spike Mendelsohn less than 10 feet away on the main stage.
But the highlight of the night had nothing to do with food. Towards the end of the event on the big screen hovering behind the main stage, a fundraising goal of 50K was announced. The initial creep of money was slow; something that seemed reasonable considering how many people were in the same lethargic position I was. But that changed in a matter of minutes. The donated total jumped from 3K to 13K to 35K to over 50K in less than five minutes.
The post-2016 cynic in me marveled at this. But then you realize that it’s all by design. The Capital Food Fight showers you with food and celebrity to make you truly feel how special both are; you can have anything you want from any cuisine you want. You begin to take food for granted and it is at that moment that the event succeeds. The Capital Food Fight is a D.C. staple because it makes you realize just how lucky many of us are to have to worry only about eating too much food.