A Fare Fight: The 9th Annual Capital Food Fight

Written by Anita

October 14, 2012

What’s more fun than a food fight? Hosted by DC’s own Jose Andres and culinary bad boy Anthony Bourdain, the Capital Food Fight (now in its ninth year) gives local chefs the chance to cook head-to-head in Iron Chef-style battles, all while raising money for DC Central Kitchen. Over 70 DC-area restaurants provide delicious savory and sweet tastings in a cocktail setting at the majestic Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

This year’s event, which had over 1,500 guests in attendance, raised a record $600,000 to support DC Central Kitchen’s job training, meal distribution, and food recycling programs. The first food fight pitted chef Adam Sobel (Bourbon Steak) against chef Guillermo Pernot (Cuba Libre). The secret ingredient, honeycrisp apples, propelled chef Pernot to victory in the 10-minute battle—as determined by celebrity judges Padma Lakshmi (host of Top Chef), Andrew Zimmern (host of Bizarre Foods), and Carla Hall (co-host of The Chew and Top Chef alum). In round two, chef Enzo Fargione (Elisir) faced off with chef Jeffrey Buben (Vidalia and Bistro Bis). Chef Buben’s chicken fried treatment of the secret ingredient (lobster mushrooms) bested chef Fargione’s preparation with gnocchi. In a surprise bonus battle, chef Bourdain and chef Zimmern, accompanied by sous chefs Mike Isabella (Graffiato) and Rock Harper (Director of Kitchen Operations at DC Central Kitchen and Hell’s Kitchen alum), served up fresh iguana meat and blood sausage, in what Anthony Boudain jokingly referred to as “stoner breakfasts.”. Bourdain won the battle (determined by audience applause) and bites of the chef’s dishes were auctioned off to raise money for the cause. In the final battle, round winners chef Pernot and chef Buben prepared the secret ingredient, Iberico ham (which happens to be one of chef Andres’ favorite ingredients). Chef Buben celebrated his birthday by claiming the title, winning a weekend stay at the Greenbrier Resort and use of a Cadillac ATS.

While the evening’s battles raged, guests could saunter through the Reagan Building’s spaces, sampling an array of tasty dishes. Our favorites included the spicy and crunchy crab papadum roll from Indique, the fork-tender short rib stifado with sweet roasted onions atop a silky sunchoke puree by Cava Mezze, and 1789’s creamy house-made ricotta, topped with a plump fresh fig, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt, a generous drizzle of wildflower honey, and a sprig of mache. Chef Buben was two times a winner, offering a rich Cinderella pumpkin panna cotta under a bourbon gelee with pumpkin seed brittle and sprinkled with smoked pancetta from Wagshal’s. We also swooned over 2941’s delicate crab and pimento roll, wrapped in layers of black plum and crowned by fresh nasturtium leaves.

At the event, DC Central Kitchen’s job training program, which graduates over 80 culinary students annually, honored graduate Anand Shantam with the Shining Star award and a scholarship to L’Academie de Cuisine. At evening’s end, Robert Egger, president and founder of DC Central Kitchen, announced that he will be leaving the charity he started 23 years ago to begin LA Kitchen, which will focus on combatting senior hunger. Guests fondly bid him farewell and thanked him for his many years of dedicated service.

Raring to be ringside next year? Then stay tuned to GregsListDC for breaking news on the 10th annual battle. Want to make a real difference right now? Then volunteer to support DC Central Kitchen’s programs using its convenient online system. Activities currently seeking volunteers include helping to prepare the morning meal, participating in outreach, and helping to create meals at the kitchen’s Nutrition Lab. Let’s work together to knock out hunger in our city!

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