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Sips & Suppers Recap: Food Can Reunite Country, Says José Andrés

The annual event to fight hunger had an underlying theme

Just blocks away from the extreme controversies spilling out of The White House, the restaurant world partied for a good cause Saturday night at the Newseum. The consensus: that food can cure the divisive world we’re living in.

Sips & Suppers, an annual two-day event to support DC Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table, had a bigger meaning this year than usual — especially in the light of co-chair José Andrés’ legal battle with President Donald Trump for pulling out of his D.C. hotel after Trump made inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.

Sips was also headlined by co-chairs Joan Nathan and Alice Waters. Nathan said that “40 to 50 countries are represented in what we are eating” (celeb chefs such as Michael Solomonov and Charles Phan, who were present and signed cookbooks, are immigrants, she pointed out).

“Food is what can keep us moving forward,” Andrés said, adding, “I am an immigrant today and I am a Muslim.”

The 1,000-person crowd was also fired up, giving back big time this year to the tune of $600,000. The event included a “Suppers” component Sunday night, in which 70-plus chefs from around the world cooked at 35 host homes across the city.

Since starting in 2009 to raise awareness of hunger and poverty in the D.C. area, the event has ballooned to highlight culinary greats who push pioneering food ideas.

Waters, for instance, founded Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and is considered the matriarch of the sustainable food movement. Signing copies of “Fanny in France,” she told Eater it’s “a love letter” to food, written from a child’s perspective to capture values such as sitting at the table, “loving salad,” and gathering.

“We need to make a commitment to eat together every week, every day,” Waters said.

Read on for news bites and highlights Eater gathered throughout the evening:

Andrés: Donning his “I am an immigrant” T-shirt, the now-naturalized U.S. citizen said, “We are here to be United Nations of the food movement.” Chinatown’s China Chilcano was one of the participating restaurants, dishing out its classic ceviche.

Spike Gjerde Talks Line Hotel. The Baltimore-based chef says his first restaurant in D.C. inside the new Adams Morgan hotel is now shooting for a late March arrival (it was originally slated to debut in time for the Inauguration). Rake, a “north-meets-south” spot with a hearth, will “unite all great things” about Woodberry Kitchen, which “continues to defy gravity.” He’s been working on the menu for over a year now.

Must-Try Dishes: Nathan swore by the bruschetta served by Damascene Catering.

Elevator Spotting: The Fainting Goat might’ve made too much alcohol; after the event wrapped at 10 p.m., staff was seen hauling gallons of its spiked cider downstairs.

Badass Behavior: If you’re going to go against museum rules of no drinking in exhibits, might as well do it at the newly-opened “Louder Than Words: Rock, Power, and Politics.” Attendees were spotted drinking while taking in Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock Stratocaster guitar and President Bill Clinton’s saxophone. (Note: Lots of sippers did follow rules and kept their drinks on stand-by before the exhibit entrance.)

White Wine Everywhere: “Sipping” was clearly encouraged throughout the night. Kyirisan’s Tim Ma balanced a wine glass and his chef jacket in one hand, revealing an undershirt that read: “I’d Rather Be Down Under”. Rasa co-founder Sahil Rahman, manning his spiced lamb station, said patrons were steadily bringing him drinks throughout the night.

Chef Kwame Onwuachi Sighting: The Top Chef alum showed up with his fiancee looking dapper in a perfectly fitting black tuxedo jacket and colorful pocket square. He declined to comment on the recent closure of The Shaw Bijou and what might be next for him, career-wise. “I’m just here to party and enjoy my engagement,” he said, holding a high ball glass. (Good for him.)

Who Was There: Some 45 chefs, restaurants, mixologists, distilleries, and artisans fanned out across three floors. Treats came from D.C. spots such as Declaration, Indique, and Lincoln, while “sips” were concocted by Gina Chersevani, Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., District Distilling Co., One Eight Distilling, Quarter+Glory, and Quill.

VIP Life: Jet Blue stewardesses were walking around with iPads for people to enter to win two round-trip tickets anywhere the airline flies. VIP guests, which got to enter an hour early, also enjoyed an exclusive spirit tasting from Jos. A. Magnus & Co., wines from Gustafson Family Vineyards, and cava from The Winebow Group’s MundoVino and Juvé & Camps properties.

Big Goals and Words: Waters, who says she “really” misses California, thinks the ultimate goal of the event is to eliminate the need to have Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen, and hopes kids can one day have access to free school lunches and snacks.

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