More than 75 D.C. restaurants participated in last night's Capital Food Fight benefiting DC Central Kitchen. For most chefs, it was a chance to mix and mingle outside the kitchen, but for Centrolina's Amy Brandwein, it was an opportunity to prove what some Italian cooking can do in a competition-style cook-off. Brandwein walked away from the event last night as champion. Meanwhile, Eater was there to experience it all —the broken ovens, the heated competition, the boozy bar. Really it can only mean one thing: a good chance of a hangover.
1) The hosts: The entire night was fueled by the energy of Chefs José Andrés and Carla Hall. The duo emceed the food fight, and even brought levity during moments of serious competition. During a butter challenge, José proclaimed his love for butter, telling the crowd that he "Jacuzzis in butter."
2) But seriously, the night raised a lot of money for DC Central Kitchen. More than $550,000 was raised for the organization, which aims to use food to empower people and communities. "We've been doing this for several years now, and for me, this is a friendly competition," Andrés said. "But it's also a way to talk about why fighting hunger is so important in D.C."
3) The judges: Former Capital Food Fight competitor and "Top Chef" contestant Spike Mendelsohn judged, alongside restaurateur Richard Sandoval and Anne Burrell from Food Network's "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef."
4) The competition was heated. The ovens weren't: Chefs competed on-stage in an "Iron Chef"-style setup. Each kitchen was complete with food, supplies and appliances. The only issue? Organizers had trouble getting the ovens to heat properly. They eventually got things working, with a slightly delayed start for the competition.
5) How it went down: Amy Brandwein (Centrolina) cooked head-to-head against Harper McClure (BRABO). Brandwein advanced by using the secret ingredient, butternut squash, in a ricotta gnocchi.
In the second match-up, Nick Stefanelli (Masseria) and K.N. Vinod (Indique) used the secret ingredient of brown mustard ham glaze, but, Stefanelli was no match for Vinod's sautéed shrimp and peppers with chile, vinegar and fennel.
In the end, Brandwein took home the win for her use of a whole pig in the final.
6) Let them eat cake: There was also a high stakes cake competition, hosted by Duff Goldman of Food Network fame. The top award for the night went to Pastry Chef Erin Schwartz, founder of Stacked, for her towering cake in tribute to volunteerism.
Congrats to @STACKED_cakes for winning the #cake battle! pic.twitter.com/Md8A1i6mqq— DC Central Kitchen (@dcck) November 13, 2015
7) "Don't be scared." That was Marjorie Meek-Bradley's advice for competitors in last night's food fight. Meanwhile, her advice for those still feeling the effects of a hangover today — drink plenty of gatorade.
8) Marjorie looked like a top chef last night. She served her winning dish from last year's food fight — a scallop crudo. Meek-Bradley, who will compete in this season of Bravo's "Top Chef," seemed right at home on-stage with some other Top Chef celebrities. During the man vs. woman food fight, Meek-Bradley joined Hall and Burrell on stage to compete against the guys: Mendelsohn, Sandoval, and Goldman. The women took the win for their fried chicken in a beurre blanc sauce.
9) Get ready for some Top Chef trivia, D.C.: While Meek-Bradley's lips are sealed about her recent 'Top Chef' performance, she did say that Roofer's Union will host weekly viewing parties with 'Top Chef' trivia, starting Dec. 2nd.
10) Hey isn't that... Shane Battier??? The former NBA/Duke basketball player kind of stuck out from the chefs, just from sheer size. Battier says he's a food lover, who just happened to be in town for a speaking event.
11) Tim Ma's deli is coming to Vienna very, very soon. Water & Wall chef Ma will add a deli to his roster of restaurants. If all goes according to plan, Chase the Submarine (named for his son Chase) will be open by early next week, Ma says. Expect a variety of takeout meats and deli sandwiches, including a wagyu pastrami on rye and a pork belly bánh mì. The project is a partnership with Michael Amouri from Caffe Amouri in Vienna.
12) Also close: The Sovereign. Expect an early-December opening from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group. When The Sovereign officially opens in Georgetown, there will be a litany of Belgian beers, as well as a few American beers brewed according to the Belgian style. Plus, a boozy list of Absinthe and Genever cocktails.
13) Libations definitely helped loosen the crowd. That hangover attendees are experiencing today... probably served by one of the many bartenders that worked the crowd during a VIP "speakeasy" of sorts. Some of the knockout drinks included: Chantal Tseng's (Petworth Citizen) "Candide's Garden" with pisco, sherry, and Peruvian tea; Adam Bernbach's (2 Birds, 1 Stone) "Biggers Lord Punch" with gin, ginger, and green apple; and Jeff Faile's (The Partisan) "I Am Ahab" with rum, cider aperitif, orgeat, and grapefruit.
14) Nick Stefanelli cooked for Rahm on Wednesday. How did Stefanelli prepare for the food fight? By cooking Rahm Emanuel dinner. The Chicago mayor stopped by Masseria on Wednesday night and dined at the chef's table.
15) Carla Hall's hot chicken and hot fish coming to Brooklyn next month. A month from now, Carla Hall says her southern-inspired restaurant — Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen — will be open in Brooklyn. She doesn't think New Yorkers know what they're in for. After all, Nashville hot chicken like the one at Prince's has been known to make first-timers cry. Hall says she's also excited for the hot fish sandwich coming to the menu.
16) Spike hosted the after party and celebrated his latest restaurant in Miami. So Eater was on a strict curfew last night, but the all-night crowd partied at Mendelsohn's French brasserie, Bearnaise. There was also reason for Spike to celebrate. His latest restaurant, Sunny's (named for his father) opened in South Beach, Miami last week, and as he describes it, the food is inspired by "a bunch of beach bums."