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Stefanelli Wins Taste Of The Nation's Master Chef Showdown

Bibiana's Nick Stefanelli comes away with the win! And $5,000 for Share Our Strength.
Bibiana's Nick Stefanelli comes away with the win! And $5,000 for Share Our Strength.

[Photos: Amy McKeever/]

Last night, Share Our Strength gathered restaurants and chefs from across the region to raise money for its No Kid Hungry campaign at Taste of the Nation 2011. Held at the National Building Museum, this event was a unique opportunity for gorging, imbibing, celebrity chef-stalking and a little do-gooding, too. And this year brought a new feature to the evening: a Master Chef Showdown where three local chefs faced off to win $5,000 for the charity.

Nick Stefanelli (Bibiana), Peter Smith (PS 7's) and Victor Albisu (BLT Steak) competed in the Master Chef Showdown, in which they had 30 minutes to complete a dish, Top Chef-style. The Washington Post's Bonnie Benwick and Tim Carman, Tasting Table's Erin Hartigan and RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 judged the competition, while emcee Nycci Nellis of Foodie and the Beast Radio brought some style to the whole affair.

Even though he was cooking with an arm in a sling, Smith finished cooking first with a busy plate of asparagus, meat and potatoes, followed by Albisu's roulade with roasted red pepper. Stefanelli, on the other hand, began plating with only 40 seconds to spare in the competition — but since this is for charity and all, the judges let it slide. And good thing, too! Stefanelli's dish of potato rosti and hay-smoked steak topped with soft-cooked eggs was the judges' favorite, winning him bragging rights and a whopping $5,000 that Creekstone Farms donated in his name to Share Our Strength.

More than 75 chefs and restaurants set up shop inside the beautiful National Building Museum, providing little bites for all the guests who paid big bucks to get in. There seemed to be a lot of sliders and pate in the house for some reason. Belga Cafe had the most creative presentation, serving their sweet and savory waffles out of a "food truck" shell rather than just a plain table like everyone else. Top mixologists like PS 7's Gina Chersevani, Columbia Room's Derek Brown and Bourbon Steak's Duane Sylvestre were getting people boozed up — and the line was consistently too long to grab drinks from POV Lounge's Joey Ambrose and Lyon Hall's Jake Worth.

But the sold-out crowd swarmed rather predictably around the celebrity chefs of the evening. VOLT's Bryan Voltaggio was difficult to see over the throngs of fans watching him make his liquid nitrogen frozen coconut lavender air, while his Top Chef colleague Mike Isabella seemed to be constantly taking pictures with the ladies. Reality-famous Georgetown Cupcake's table also had quite the line, along with LA franchise Pinkberry.

Attendees also had a chance to bid on tasting dinners from restaurants like Rogue 24 and Kushi or tickets to the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival in the silent auction. But, even though there was still free booze flowing for another hour or so, crowds started to thin down around 9 p.m. Case of the Mondays?

· Taste of the Nation [Official Site]
· All Previous Taste of the Nation Coverage [-EDC-]