It’s been five years since D.C. first launched Chefs for Equality, the annual fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign's marriage equality efforts. Over the years, the event has grown and grown, transforming into a must-attend evening for the city’s hospitality industry. The event always involves epic cakes, a silent auction, and a mouthwatering roster of bites from the city’s top chefs. Here are some Hangover Observations from this year's big night, held as usual at the Ritz-Carlton in the West End:
1) Warm and fuzzy feelings: A common refrain from attendees last night: “This is my favorite food event of the year.”
2) Fashion notes: Wild red bow ties, art deco-inspired sequin and metallic dresses, and feathers were common themes among the guests’ attire. Though black cocktail dresses were hardly absent, normally-conservative D.C. tends to take more fashion risks for the festive event each year. There was even a custom-made Tom of Finland chef coat.
3) About those gift bags: The swag bags for the event this year were completely stuffed, as usual — the haul weighed a total of eight pounds. Among the giveaways in the Salt & Sundry tote bag: a $25 gift card to Total Wine, True tonic syrup, Compass Coffee, Gordy’s cocktail brine, Route 11 potato chips and more.
4) Famous faces: Beyond the celebrity chef crowd, there were famous speakers, including Eric Fanning, the first openly gay Secretary of the Army. Transgender activist Sarah McBride, currently the HRC’s National Press Secretary, spoke as well.
5) A year of urgency: “We all know what’s at stake during this election,” said the event’s founder David Hagedorn, speaking to the crowd at the event and noting the significance of the contentious presidential election year. The elephant in the room, Donald Trump, not exactly known for his support of HRC causes, was coincidentally in D.C. yesterday as well, cutting the ribbon on his new hotel.
6) Yes, there was a peacock table: The not-so-cheap seats were the private tables (one decked out with an epic peacock centerpiece), where attendees put down anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 for multi-course private dinners cooked by major chefs. For example, those who ate a meal prepared by Maketto’s Erik Bruner-Yang, The Source’s Scott Drewno, Daikaya’s Katsuya Fukushima, and Danny Lee of Mandu (what a lineup) sampled such courses as a ponzo-marinated avocado with caviar, Korean beef tartare, egg drop soup with lobster and squid ink dumplings, and Japanese hot pot. Another dinner paid tribute to late D.C. chef Michel Richard. Even vegetarians were taken care of, with such dishes as a gorgeous mushroom loaf from The Inn at Little Washington’s Patrick O’Connell.
7) Best bites: D.C.’s chefs always tend to bring it for this event, and this year was no exception, with everything from foie gras macarons to crispy coconut rice salad. Some of the best bites of the evening included a delicious crab and uni fondue from 1789’s Samuel Kim, a seasonal pumpkin curry from Compass Rose, and a spin on Maryland pit beef from Beuchert’s Saloon.
8) Checking out six in the morning: The after party this year was held at Kapnos, where diners continued to drink and feast on such items as lechon belly.