Though not made of bread, Chef Ria Montes’s mango and sea buckthorn scallop crudo helped bring in the dough: More than $750,000 to help end hunger in the District.
At last week’s Capital Food Fight, Montes, Chef de Cuisine at Estuary in the Conrad Hotel, defeated three other top Washington, D.C.-area chefs in a battle on stage to help knock out hunger.
Now in its 19th year, Capital Food Fight, held Nov. 9 at the Anthem at the Wharf, is an annual event benefitting DC Central Kitchen (DCCK).
More than 70 restaurants and 1,100 guests packed all three levels of the Anthem to support DCCK, a social enterprise founded in 1989 that combats hunger and poverty through job training and job creation, as well as community meals for youth and shelters. DCCK provides meals in schools, corner stores, catering, and uniquely, operates three cafes where the on-the-job training takes place.
The event is twofold: a culinary cooking challenge and never-ending aisles of tastings from the city’s top restos.
The cooking challenge featured four D.C. chefs: Ed Reavis (Money Muscle BBQ, All Set, Fryer’s Roadside), Rachel Bindel (Michele’s, Gravitas, Bakers Daughter), Carlos Camacho (dLeña) and Ria Montes (Estuary), who prepared dishes based on ingredients revealed only right before the cooking challenge. NBC4 host Tommy McFly acted as emcee, pumping up guests in the single-elimination competition. By the end of the night, Montes came out on top, crafting the scallop dish based on her innovative menu at Estuary, plating American-style, Mid-Atlantic dishes, infused by her Filipino background.
The chefs were joined by a host of special top chef guests like Tom Colicchio and invited judges, including Ryan Zimmerman, Rocco DiSpirito, and Justin Sutherland. Jose Andres, DCCK Board Chair Emeritus, and one of the hosts, offered a taped greeting from Acapulco, Mexico, while on hurricane relief duty with his international food charity organization, World Central Kitchen. Along with the on-stage and on-plate action, there was also a silent auction that helped raise funds to combat hunger and poverty.
On the food side, more than 70 of D.C.’s newest and classic restaurants served bites, from oysters to meatballs to ceviche topped with an ice luge-chilled vinaigrette. The Anthem’s bars poured wine and beers. Participating restaurants included dLeña, Hank’s Oyster Bar, El Techo, Maydan and Gravitas. Dessert purveyors featured Captain Cookie and the Milkman and Mr. Bake. And, yes, there were espresso martinis. When the event wound down, attendees and chefs continued the party at nearby rooftop bar Whiskey Charlie.
The 20th anniversary of Capital Food Fight will take place next year on Nov. 7.