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Chefs' Sunday Night Suppers: Job done

Equinox chef-owner Todd Gray's beef and arugula hors d'oeuvres, for a Sunday Night Suppers fundraiser. (Elizabeth Monachello/DC Central Kitchen)

Chestnut agnolotti, roast chicken with truffles tucked under the skin, Italian wine and lots of foie gras: What else would one expect from a star-studded, sustainable food fundraiser put on by Chez Panisse chef-restaurateur Alice Waters and Washington's Jose Andres and Joan Nathan?

Served in 14 private homes around the Washington area on Sunday, the $500-a-plate dinners benefitted local anti-hunger organizations Martha’s Table and DC Central Kitchen, Nathan said. There was also a $125-a-head cocktail party, dubbed Sunday Sips, that featured local bartenders Gina Chersevani of PS 7's, Dan Searing of Room 11 and Owen Thomson of Bourbon. More than $100,000 was raised, Nathan said.

The events were inspired by last year's Art.Food.Hope dinners that took place during President Obama's inauguration. (Last year, you may recall, cookbook author Nathan kicked off the Art.Food.Hope event with a party that featured, among other things, a life-saving Heimlich maneuver by chef-restaurateur Colicchio when she started to choke on a piece of food.)

In addition to Waters, who whipped up green lasagna for 40, the chefs this year included Gabriel Kreuther of The Modern in New York, Charles Phan from the Slanted Door in San Francisco, and D.C. chefs Todd Gray of Equinox, Jeff Buben of Vidalia and Brian McBride of Blue Duck Tavern. Among the hosts and guests were a number of other bold-face names, including American Enterprise Institute scholar Richard Perle, Undersecretary of Education Martha J. Kanter and Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Susan M. Collins (R-Maine).

Chefs do a lot of charity dinners, of course. So for many, one of the most exciting parts of the weekend was a Monday morning visit to the White House. Pastry chef Bill Yosses took more than 20 participants, including Waters, Phan and local hero Odessa Piper, on a deluxe tour of the kitchen ("surprisingly small" was the chefs' verdict) and the new hoop houses in the famous White House garden. (Afterward, they met up at Potenza for a gourmet breakfast including freshly made doughnuts, truffled eggs and breakfast pizzas.)

Will the dinners become an annual event?

"It feels like it's necessary," said Waters, whose goal for the dinners is not only to raise money but also to promote awareness about the benefits of local and sustainable food. In particular, she said she was impressed with DC Central Kitchen's employment and gleaning programs that embrace "the most innovative ways to source organic food."

Waters said she hoped to collaborate with DC Central Kitchen. But she also has a bigger dream: "I would like to see a permanent marketplace in Washington, like Les Halles in Paris. Farmers need a reliable and predictable marketplace. And schools [that want local food] can't operate unless there's a year-round wholesale and retail market that is very accessible."

No details yet on where or when that might happen. Maybe next year?

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  January 25, 2010; 3:10 PM ET
Categories:  Sustainable Food  | Tags: Jane Black, chefs, sustainable food  
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