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Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Washington DC

By Jordan Wright
March 2009

The message behind Share our Strength’s Taste of the Nation is a powerful one. Feed the children. Launched in 1988 and held annually in over 40 US cities, top chefs join together to offer their time, talent and dedication to help stamp out hunger in our nation.

The recipe for success for this premier event is first…start with an array of the great chefs in our area, add samplings of their finest dishes, mix with the coolest cocktails and wines, create a silent auction featuring dinners-for-two from the finest DC area restaurants and a live auction of chefs’ services in your own home; stir in wild-eyed foodies eager to get in on the fun and voila! You’ve got one of the best parties in town and all for a great cause.

Last night’s event at the glamorous Mellon Auditorium featured our best culinary braniacs. Executive chefs brought with them legions of sous chefs, pastry chefs and garde mangers and still needed the army of volunteers from L’Academie de Cuisine. They whisked and steamed, sliced and diced, carved, baked and stewed, roasted and broiled, shook and stirred the most elaborate and creative array of cocktails and dishes ever assembled anywhere.

Crisp, white, monogrammed chef jackets nearly outnumbered the chic guests as the chefs-as-hosts graciously offered and described their specialties to the hungry hoards. Overheard, “You’d think people had never eaten before”, so delicious was everything it seemed as though we never had!

The excitement was palpable, the competition between colleagues intense. It was like sitting at the coveted chef’s table in your favorite restaurant. Old hands, Robert Wiedmaier, Jeffery Buben, Chef Chair R. J. Cooper, Roberto Donna, Cedric Maupillier, Bob Kinkead, Enzo Fargione, Ris Lacoste, Jeff Tunks, Michel Richard, Morou Quattara and Kaz Okochi worked side-by-side with the likes of Ryan Morgan, Michelle and Christophe Poteaux, Jason Andelman, Victor Albisu, K.N. Vinod, Haidar Karoum, Robert Weland and Heather Chittum.

Area mixologists Todd Thrasher, Tony Abou-Ganim, Adam Bernbach and Gina Chersevani along with kept the drinkies, beers (Stella Artois, Hoegaarden & Leffe) and wines (Horton and Roederer Estate Champagne) flowing. The lap of luxury delivered at warp speed.

From Chef Chair of the evening, R. J. Cooper of Vidalia serving Fois Gras Mousse with Pickled Kumquat, Vidalia Onion Marmalade, Smoked Coriander-infused Vinaigrette made with aged Sherry, “For cooks to get together like this…it’s very meaningful to us. If you try the food here tonight it’s as good as the restaurants. I’ve been doing this event for 21 years and it’s a large part of my whole culinary background. To raise money to feed children is so important. Last year when I was in New York’s Penn Station I saw a mother and her children sleeping on the floor. They had no food and I went out and bought them dinner. That is what this is all about…giving back. As a cook I can eat anything I want, but for many others they don’t have anything to eat. We have to take care of our people.”

From Chef Haldar Karoum of Proof, “It’s great to participate in this event. It’s for such a good cause. We plan on coming every year.”

From Victor Albisu of Bistro Laurent Tourondel Steak serving a confit of bacon on a baby bun, “I love this. We do a lot of events but this is one of my very favorites.”

From Enzo Fargione of Teatro Goldoni, serving Cauliflower Soup Cocktail with candied tomatoes, fried capers and crispy basil. “This is such a noble cause. I’m very happy to be here.”

From Scott Drewno of Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, The Source, serving Spicy Tuna Tartare in a Sesame Miso Tuile, “It’s such a great event that’s why we continue to be a part of it”.

From David Varley of Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak serving American Wagyu Steak Shabu Shabu with Mushroom Dashi Broth, “To be part of this community…it’s such a dynamic community of foodies and people that are out here in Washington to change the world. For us to participate in such a small way is really an honor. It’s big for us and we appreciate the opportunity.”

Well stated by all of our generous and beloved chefs.

Favorite tastes of the evening:

Chirachi of Sea Clams and Sea Scallops topped with slivers of Toasted Nori with a Sea Urchin Sauce. Thank you Kaz Okochi of Kaz Sushi Bistro for such a transcendent morsel.

Chocolate Tart in a Chocolate Shortbread Crust with a layer of ooey-gooey caramel and topped with Maldon Sea Salt. Thank you Heather Chittum of Hook for such brilliant decadence. I apologize for chiding you that it was too much for one person!

Lighter-than-air Lemon Gnocchi and Peeky Toe Crab from Maine with Herbs and Spring Peas in a Lemon Cream Sauce. Bless you Bob Kinkead of Kinkead’s for that sublime marriage of seasonal ingredients.

To Tony Abou-Ganim, whose 10-foot bar was shoulder-to-shoulder with pretty young things learning to muddle their own cocktails using blackberries, strawberries, pineapple, all the citruses and an array of flavored Finlandia Vodkas. I think we’re all ready for summer now!

If you weren’t there for this culinary blowout, there is always next year. If you didn’t see your favorite chef mentioned here, mea culpa!

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