Chef’s Dinner Raises Funds, Conversation
I believe in the power of food. I believe that the best meals, regardless of the ingredients, the chef, the tools and the taste, are meals spent in communion with others. Shared meals serve as a cornerstone for some of our biggest events and for the mundane everyday. They can trigger new relationships, mend faulty ones, finalize business agreements, reunite old friends, celebrate births, deaths, weddings and weekends. At their core, shared meals offer a sense of camaraderie, a place at the table and a nourished body.
Food & Friends has been serving the D.C. area since 1988 and it provides just that, a relationship around food. This non-profit, based out of northeast D.C., distributes meals and groceries to those living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. By doing so, Food & Friends ensures that no patients have to go through the hardships of their disease on an empty stomach. In 2012 alone, they delivered 1,119,370 meals to 2,900 children and adults across the metro area, all of which were planned by professional chefs and dietitians. Perhaps what is more striking than these numbers, however, is the testaments to the relationships formed between those receiving the meals and those delivering them. A true nourishment of both body and spirit.
Like most non-profits, Food & Friends thrives off of volunteers, donations and fundraisers. This past Monday was their 23rd annual Chef’s Best Dinner and Auction at the Washington Hilton. The night featured 60 of the area’s finest chefs and both a silent and a live auction with a jazz band playing in the background and dark purple lights filling the ballroom. The silent auction showcased an eclectic mix of local art, culinary packages and vacation giveaways. The live auction, with the stakes a bit higher, included trips across the world, private jet rides and a private cooking class with Chef Patrick O’Connell of the Inn at Little Washington.
And the food, the food was incredible.
Having been to a few chef events in the past, as both an attendee as well as for restaurants, I love the hype that goes in to chef events: the preparation, the excitement and the incredible variety of each chef’s final dish. Spring vegetables and fresh fish were certainly the top hits (and appropriately so): there were quite a few ceviche dishes, chilled asparagus soups and spring salads. Yet among the lighter, springtime dishes, the longest lines wrapped around Georgia Brown’s for jambalaya, Shake Shack’s olive oil gelato with a rhubarb compote and Chef Dean Gold’s (of Dino’s) pork mushroom pate. Gold’s 600 portions of wild boar and mushroom pate was completely wiped out by around 8 p.m. Which only means one thing: people love their meat more than asparagus. My personal favorites came from the Black Restaurant Group, particularly Black Jack’s pork belly pastrami reuben sandwich.
The night was a success, raising over $900,000 for Food & Friends, which will provide nearly a million meals to those in need. The money raised at an event that brings strangers together, encouraging conversation about the incredible duck confit salad across from the table with decadent cupcakes is a true testimony to the Food & Friends mission: that communities can be fostered through wholesome meals shared with others.