The Washington food, policy and media worlds collided to bring awareness and raise money for healthy living while celebrating and poking fun at American chef icon Tom Colicchio on Monday night.
The red carpet joyfully brought together colleagues and friends in food policy for a good ol’ fashioned roast (pun intended). Chefs Lee Anne Wong, Bill Telepan, and Emily Luchetti were all on hand for some ribbin’ (more puns!) and jabs (not a pun!). Hosted by Chef and TV personality Richard Blais along with Padma Lakshmi and Chef Kerry Heffernan the event was full of charitable highs and good-natured lows, in insult form. Dolcezza’s Robb Duncan and Chef Erik Bruner-Yang laughed their way through the event while Alex, our host, reminded us that “the only thing getting blazed is the staff.” Chef Spike Mendelsohn and his wife Cody playfully cuddled on the red carpet, still in the honeymoon phase after their wedding in Greece this past summer. Weddings, if you think about it, are their own special kind of roast.
Spike, who is the chair of the DC Food Policy Council, later received a standing ovation after discussing the importance of feeding all kids “delicious and healthy quality school meals.”
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and his wife Marcelle were thrilled to spend time with the chefs putting their policies to work.
When guests arrived, they began snacking on hors d’oeuvres created by Chef Erik Bruner-Yang featuring Cambodian sausage, a coconut fish crudo and both vegetarian and pork bao. Mixtress Gina Chersevani of Buffalo & Bergen was steadily pouring Maker’s Mark Old Fashioneds with fresh, local ingredients.
Senator Leahy, a champion for agriculture and healthy eating, received an award for Outstanding Leadership in Childhood Nutrition. He reminded the crowd that “hungry children don’t learn” and talked up the Organic Food Production Act.
Richard, who is well on his way to becoming the next big American food star, spoke of Tom’s boundary-defying work, “we have congressional representatives, journalists and chefs all together in this room. They care about food because of Tom.”
The six-course meal was created by an all-star lineup of chefs – Spike Mendelsohn, Sam Talbot, David Gaus, Robb Duncan, and Erik Bruner-Yang. Beginning with a seared salmon, next came a cauliflower and turnip soup followed by this refreshing intermezzo of Lemon Opal Basil Sorbetto from Robb Duncan. The entree was a braised pork belly with pumpkin puree and delicious pickled gooseberries followed by a creatively dressed young ginger copetta for dessert.
Tom lit up the room the entire night, both taking the jokes as well as dishing them. The Chef’s Roast was just a preview of the work he would do on Tuesday, leading a day of food advocacy on Capitol Hill. The event was a great reminder that, like Tom says, “If we want a better food system, we need to elect better foodies.”