Words By Julia Malmo, Photos By Armando Gallardo
As the month of May ends, so does Passport DC, a month-long series of activities highlighting D.C.’s international diplomatic community, and its colorful culture — a prime characteristic of the District. Closing out the month of embassy events was the seventh annual Embassy Chef Challenge, a one-of-a-kind culinary experience facing off twelve of the private chefs from Washington’s embassies against one another with the most delicious small-bite appetizers as their weapons.
The event started with a VIP reception before the main event at 6:30 pm, giving attendees the opportunity to try a selection of appetizers from twelve different countries including: Qatar, El Salvador, Ghana, among others.
Opening remarks where led by Chinyere Hubbard, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at Events DC, Andrew Gelfuso, Vice President at Trade Center Management Associates and Tim Cox, Cultural Tourism DC Board Chair who highlighted the diversity of cuisine included in the competition, which came from 4 different continents. As Cox noted, “Once you look beyond our National icons, one of the most interesting and treasured parts of Washington is its international community”.
We found two main trends when selecting an ambassador’s chef: either the ambassador had previously occupied a government position where he hired a chef and brought him/her along when moving to DC or during the selection process somebody from ‘inside’ (whatever that might mean) suggested the Chef’s name — a name which must come up more than once and from two different sources to solidify the selection process.
Then there’s the story of Jorge Jorge Lamport, the owner of Camille Culinary School and restaurant in Guatemala City, whose father and brother both served as ambassador’s to the US and thus has a family tradition of public service. It was clear that Lamport sees his position as one of a ‘culinary ambassador’, turning the palates of even the most bland diners into a rainbow of taste and delicious flavors. He certainly accomplished this task with his Chipilin Leaf Tamale with Marinated Chicken.
Chef Lars Beese with his Sunchoke Soup, Chef Irma Japaridze with her Spinach with walnuts fried eggplants rolls and cheese and Chef Zodwa Sikakane with her Magwinya with Chakalaka and Vegetarian Pickled Sauce or Curried Mince Meat with Chutney were among our favorites. Several of the embassy posts such as Norway and Hungary offered aperitif and digestifs as shots to clear our pallets for the next round.
Worth noting were the traditional garments from the Norwegian embassy representatives and chef who we wish had their own fashion show.
Both the judges and people choice award went to the Venezuelan Embassy Chef, Manuel Rodriguez, whose combination of Seafood and Shellfish in a tomato sauce that resembled ceviche. The dish was titled ‘Back to life’ for the awakening and re-energizing powers given to those who try it.