Last Thursday night there were some fightin’ words going on. Yes, there was the annual Knock Out Abuse and its big brother fundraiser the infamous Fight Night, but for those who are more interested in food and helping the homeless via programs through DC Central Kitchen, the Capital Food Fight was the place to be.Â For yet another year, I decided to head to the Reagan Building not only because I’m a little (ok a LOT) obsessed with Anthony Bourdain and absolutely love Think Food Group’s Jose Andres, but also because I have visited the DC Central Kitchen.Â I received a full tour, talked at length with CEO Mike Curtain, and have learned over the course of a few years all about the amazing work they do for the city and for getting people up off their feet and on with their lives.Â Talk about a hand up, not a hand out – I have been thoroughly impressed with DC Central Kitchen and love to support them.
So in the tradition of “Iron Chef” competitors who are local executive chefs and their sous chefs are placed on a brightly lit stage trying not to be distracted while camera men flit around focusing their aim on their faces, the progression of their dishes, and some beads of sweat, all of which are kindly displayed on a gi-normous screen.Â Their stations are complete with pots and pans and a range and other kitchen-type appliances necessary to complete their surprise ingredient dish (think skate and russet potatoes) within the short allotted time frame.Â I’ve often said that my three biggest nightmares are to be dropped onto the set as a contestant on 1) “Survivor” 2) “Project Runway” 3) “Top Chef”.Â As someone who received a “D” in high school HomeEc, burns toast regularly, and hates even saying the word “camping” (I actually got hives in REI), there’s nothing scarier than having to figure out what to do under that type of pressure.Â However, our local award winning pros like Todd Gray (Equinox), Blue Duck Tavern’s Brian McBride and Haidar Karoum (Estadio & Proof), and Jeff Black of (Pearl Dive Oyster Palace & Black Restaurant Group), and surprise guests, â€œTop Chefâ€ alums Carla Hall, Jen Carroll, Spike Mendelsohn and Mike Isabella, know just what to do in the kitchen and in fierce competition.
The entire time as the pressure mounts between the battling chefs and the boiling point is reached, Bourdain and Andres joke, fight for time on their respective mics, Bourdain insults “Top Chef” chefs (“Yeah, but where are they now?“), Andres yells “People of America!” and the two of them trip over each other in some coordinated bumbling fashion like an awkward pas de deux all over the stage in order to get the last word from the frantic chefs.Â For those who don’t get a seat on the floor of the center of the Reagan Building atrium area, it makes no difference because there is more food being made around the perimeter by local restaurants and tons of cocktails, wines, and sparkling wines in which to indulge.Â Oh and standing means you are closer to the stage.
On top of all of the craziness, there are actual judges who taste the food and make a decision right then and there. This year, the esteemed panel included Ted Allen from “Chopped”, Joan Nathan, a multiple award winning James Beard cookbook author and Ming Tsai from Blue Ginger and “Simply Ming”.
And yes, this is all for charity.Â When it’s all said and done, over $500k was raised for DC Central Kitchen, which turns leftover food from any number of sources into millions of meals for thousands of at-risk individuals across the city, while offering nationally recognized culinary job training to once-homeless and hungry adults.Â Founder Roger Egger also showed up to thank everyone for all of the continuous supportÂ Washingtonians have shown the kitchen, its people, its volunteers, its programs and its graduates.
To learn more about DC Central Kitchen please click HERE.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a platform for profiling people who "make it happen" in the Capital region, reviews & topical blog posts. She launched Punch Enterprises, a connector consulting business in 2015 and Pacific Punch based in LA, in 2012. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, VA. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.