Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Brandon Wetherbee
Chef Cynthia Verna of Haiti won the People’s Choice Championship. Chef Moha Fedal of Morocco won the Judges’ Choice Championship. While both dishes were good, they didn’t make our top 3. That’s the beauty of events like the Embassy Chef Challenge.
Similar to the EU Openhouse day, the Embassy Chef Challenge is a chance to sample cuisine kinda, sorta from around the world. For the most part, embassies in D.C. are stuck using ingredients in and around D.C. But the participating chefs hail from the countries they’re representing. Diners are getting a representation of each countries cuisine. And unlike other small plate food events, you’re not going to be able to eat the embassies at your leisure.
Haiti and Morocco served very good food. Haiti’s shrimp with plantain chips and a dot of fine herbs aioli won the People’s Choice because it was one of the most familiar tasting dishes at the event. Morocco’s lamb shoulder sealed in a clay tangia jar wasn’t the best lamb we sampled. Iraq’s kibbeh over crusted lamb chop with cilantro mechouia lamb jaus was not what we were expecting. Then again, I’m not sure what I expected. There aren’t many Iraqi restaurants in D.C.
The other two countries that made our top 3 were Cyprus and Nepal. Cyprus’ dolmades were slightly better than Greece’s, served with less sauce and more vinegar. One of Nepal’s three types of chat mari, finger foods, highlighted carrots in a way that made us do a double take.
This year’s Embassy Chef Challenge sold-out. Events like this do well because they’re unique to D.C. D.C. is where the embassies are. This is where their chefs work. Based on attendance alone, there’s an appetite for more chances to sample embassy cuisine.