Embassy Chef Challenge: China, Mexico, Philippines, Pakistan Winners


After a two-year hiatus, attendees of the Events DC 2022 Embassy Chef Challenge kicked off the inaugural International City Food Festival Oct. 13 at the Kogod Courtyard, as they traveled the world with their taste buds, sampling bites and beverages from 39 participating nations. Embassy chefs showcased unique flavors of their home countries in a culinary showdown like never before. Chefs competed to win the coveted People’s Choice Award, chosen by guests’ votes, as well as the Judges’ Choice Award, selected by a panel of influential members of the cultural and culinary communities.

Chefs Xianlong Yang, Yuechao Zhao and Song Lin representing the Embassy of China took home first place in the Judge’s Choice category with their Fish Flavored Shrimp Balls and Suzhou-Style Vegetarian Delight. Chef Alam Mendez of the Embassy of Mexico took home second place in the category with Pork Belly “tamalitos” with Guajillo salsa and Nopal (Cactus) Salad. Rounding out the Judge’s Choice Award in third place, Chef Trevon Stoute from the Embassy of Barbados for his plate of crispy pork mille feuille.

The judging panel consisted of:

— Monica Bhide, spice expert, cookbook author and novelist

— Esther Ciammachilli, host of “Morning Edition” on WAMU 88.5 FM

— David Deshaies, chef-owner of Unconventional Diner, l’Ardente

— Tom Sietsema, food critic, the Washington Post

— Dr. Erinn Tucker-Oluwole, Director, Global Hospitality Leadership, Georgetown University SCS; co-founder, DMV Black Restaurant Week.

Along with the Judge’s Choice Award, attendees of the night had the opportunity to vote for their favorite embassy as they tasted their way through the globe. Chef Erwin Villarias from the Embassy of The Philippines took home first place. Second place in the People’s Choice category went to the Embassy of Pakistan with chicken tikka and gulab jamun. Chef Boris Ghazarian from the Embassy of Armenia finished out the category in third place with seasoned lamb and vegetables over rice as well as pomegranate sorbet and labney ice cream with saffron.

This year, mixologist AJ Johnson took home the Best Beverage Award presented by LIFEWTR for their tasty cocktail featuring brugal extra viejo, chinola liqueur, sherry, orange and mint syrup and cinnamon.

“This year’s challenge was bigger and better than ever before,” said Events DC Chief Creative Officer Jinhee Kim. “It was great to see so many embassies turn out with such pride for their native cuisine and culture after a few years away. Congratulations to all the chefs and mixologists who competed — this event is only possible because of them. Here’s to many more years of friendly and delicious competition.”

People’s Choice: Chef Erwin Villarias, chef Muhammad Asghar, Nycci Nellis, cultural attache Maliha Shahid and chef Boris Ghazarian. Photo by Events DC.

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