Bartenders Join Chefs at Signature Chefs
If you don’t have your tickets to the annual March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala, time is running out and tickets are almost sold out. Next Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton, 1150 22nd St. NW, 23 chefs and eight bartenders/mixologists will come together to help raise money to help prevent birth defects, premature births and infant mortality.
Jo-Jo Valenzuela, vice president of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild, is the honorary cocktail chair. This is his fourth year participating in the Signature Chefs Gala. “It’s just such an honor to do it,” he told DC on Heels. “I just like doing a good deed whenever I can help the community and give something back. … Doing something nice is unbeatable.”
(Video: Christopher Smith/DC on Heels)
Valenzuela has been bartending since he moved to the DMV in 1997 for the Philippines, where he is from. “I was a musician, a very ambitious musician when I was in the Philippines,” he told videographer Christopher Smith. He was fascinated by drink when he moved here. “I did the wrong way of bartending, which is by learning from bartending school. But I was passionate enough that I did well. A lot of people think if you go to bartending school that you’ll land a job. It’s not how it works.”
Over the years, Valenzuela has worked behind the bar at the Occidental Grill, Old Glory, City Tap House, Ris and Chef Geoff’s among others. He currently bartends at Bobby McKey’s and Gypsy Soul. He is also the brand ambassador—or “gin connoisseur,” to use his exact title—for Beefeater Gin and Plymouth Gin, both of which are owned and distributed by French company Pernod Ricard.
Joining Valenzuela is Ben Wiley from Cafe St. Ex, Jamie MacBain from Daikaya, Christine Kim from Tico, Paul Taylor from Rhodeside Grill, Aaron Joseph from Wit and Wisdom, Glendon Hartley from Cava Mezze and Rico Wisner from Graffiato. Each will be mixing up a signature cocktail for attendees to try.
The evening will also include auctions with unique dining, entertainment, travel and leisure packages. All proceeds benefit the March of Dimes, raising awareness for its mission and vital revenue to help prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.