One of my favorite things about DC is that, with fairly minimal effort, you can be exposed to one of the widest range of cultures you can imagine in just one place. That’s because, in being the political center of the U.S., we have more than 175 embassies, ambassadors’ residences and foreign cultural centers. And thanks to Cultural Tourism DC, it’s pretty easy to find ways to get a taste and feel for the many countries represented.
That’s where the Embassy Chef Challenge comes in. The event, which is in its fifth year, brings together chefs from different embassies to participate in an Iron Chef style competition. While the main event is at a gala on March 14 (get your tickets here), it starts a month earlier in a closed-door competition which I was invited to attend. The chefs were given the same ingredients and two hours to prepare a main dish. And, of course, each chef added a twist that represented their home country’s flavor. The dishes were then scored by a panel of judges that included Washington Posts’ Tim Carman, Hello Cupcake’s Penny Karas, Chef Sina Molavi of Occasions Catering, Chef Xavier Deshayes from the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, and last year’s winner, Chef Viktor Merenyi from the Embassy of Hungary. The scores were not revealed but will be combined with the scores earned at the Gala to determine this year’s winner.
So the next step is the gala on March 14 where the chefs will create hors d’oeuvres showcasing their countries’ cuisine while trying to win favor for the People’s Choice Award. Chef Carla Hall, finalist and “Fan Favorite” from Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars, will serve as a judge and guest auctioneer for the lively auction. Proceeds from the evening will benefit Cultural Tourism DC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the art, culture and heritage found in Washington’s diverse neighborhoods.