WASHINGTON — Four local chefs will duke it out in a battle for culinary supremacy at this year's Capital Food Fight. After going virtual in 2020, the charity fundraiser is back in person this year at The Anthem on April 7.
First hosted in 2004 by DC Central Kitchen Board Chair Emeritus José Andrés, Capital Food Fight has long been a favorite event of food lovers, TV stars, and philanthropists alike. Some of the District’s biggest culinary names have battled on the Capital Food Fight stage.
“We are thrilled to be finally returning to The Anthem and celebrating the 18th Capital Food Fight with our family of supporters this April. Our city’s people and restaurants have been through so much, and this year’s event will celebrate what we have accomplished and overcome together while looking toward a brighter future,” said DC Central Kitchen CEO Mike Curtin in a statement.
This year's competitors include Cranes Chef/Partner Pepe Moncayo, Chef Brittany Anderson from Leni, Oohh’s & Aahh’s Chef Oji Abbott, and The Point DC’s Executive Chef Benjamin Lambert will face off in head-to-head cook-offs on the main stage featuring secret ingredients.
Celebrity chef and DC-based restaurateur, Spike Mendelsohn, also a Top Chef alum, will MC the event. He says he's excited to see the chefs compete.
"It’s going to be a steamy fight of a bunch of new chefs for me and that's what is so exciting at Food Fight," Mendelsohn said via email. "the competing chefs are always upcoming chefs that are starting to establish themselves in the city. It’s truly a great way to see what happening in the DMV and see them throw down in a competitive way. They better all bring it because this year’s panel of judges are for real."
Those judges include Top Chef head judge, James Beard-winning chef and restauranteur Tom Colicchio.
Colicchio says he plans to judge the competition much like he does the chef-testants on Top Chef, which just kicked off its 19th season in Houston.
"I'll judge a dish the same way I judge all my dishes: Is it seasoned properly, is it cooked properly, does it adhere to any guidelines they put out there for the competition, and that's really it. I call balls and strikes," Colicchio said by phone.
Colicchio, who opened a fast-casual restaurant called Root & Sprig in D.C. last year, says he's going into the contest blind, and does not have any idea who is competing. He says that helps him be a fair judge.
"If I think somebody has an edge, then that would mean biases have creeped into the way I judge," Colicchio said.
Aside from Colicchio, other judges on the panel include Food Network star and renowned chef Maneet Chauhan, Top Chef season 10 winner and star of truTV’s Fast Foodies Kristen Kish, and James Beard award-winning chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern.
Beyond the competition, more than 50 local restaurants will be offering food and drink for spectators.
Tickets are on sale now for $325 or $550 for VIP access. The proceeds from the event go toward the nonprofit organization DC Central Kitchen.
DCCK combats hunger and poverty through job training and job creation. The organization also works with prisoners and ex-convicts.
"They work with ex-cons and teach them skills. As they're working on those skills, the prep that they're doing, the cooking that they're doing, goes out to underserved communities," Colicchio explained. "It addresses food insecurity but it also teaches life skills to recently incarcerated people."
Colicchio says the work they do is important.
"If you believe the idea of a prison system is rehabilitation, education is part of that. Unfortunately they're not getting this stuff in prison. To have programs that teach life skills and the ability to make money once they're out of prison is really important. This is how you stop recidivism," Colicchio said. "Teach them some skills and you break that cycle."
Mendelsohn agrees, saying DC Central Kitchen's work to fight hunger and food insecurity even during the pandemic was not easy.
"Food, nutrition and health are fundamental basic needs for all of us. We really need to start treating food as human right instead of a privilege," Mendelsohn said. "The work that DCCK has put into fighting hunger and insecurity is of the utmost importance...and doubling down during the pandemic was no easy feat. Now, as we climb out of some very trying times in our lives, it's so important that we stay focused and we look forward to support during this years epic food fight."
For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.