Over 30 embassies dished out bites and sips to a sold-out crowd at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center during the 9th Annual Embassy Chef Challenge. Presented by TCMA (A Drew Company), the exclusive manager of the Reagan Building, this event brought together 34 different embassies in a friendly competition of culinary excellence; a rare opportunity for the DC community to experience authentic food prepared by embassy chefs.
This year, the event proved to be bigger and better than ever before, spanning two of the largest event spaces in the building. Embassies with a participating chef were stationed in the Atrium Hall, their tables festooned with national flags, banners and other cultural decorations. Guests sampled intriguing dishes such as Binalot from the Philippines (pinoy grilled pork with quail egg and cherry tomatoes wrapped in banana leaves), Crispy Wontons Stuffed with Fish Pickles from Mauritius and Pina Colada Mahi Mahi from Barbados, to name a few. The Atrium housed embassies who were without a chef, but still took part in the evening’s festivities by offering spirits and sweets from their respective countries. Sips included the Singapore Sling from the eponymous Asian island, wines from Azerbaijan, and champagne and caviar from Moldova. Guests tasted their way around the world, while enjoying cultural dances and international music on multiple performance stages. The upbeat and energetic entertainment included the West African Kankoran Dance Company, a Nepalese Vajrapani Chayra Dance, and Tahuantinsuyo, a Peruvian Folk Music group. Performers impressed event-goers and the featured band, City of the Sun, ignited the crowd getting everyone on their feet in the Atrium.
As guests ate and sipped through a global culinary tour, they were asked to place a vote for their favorite dish of the night – ultimately deciding which chef would be named People’s Choice Award Winner. At the end of the evening, crowds gathered in front of the Atrium stage to see which chef and embassy would claim a coveted Pineapple Trophy – Judges’ Choice Award and People’s Choice Award. A panel of seven judges, comprised of members of the media, the Reagan Building’s own Executive Chef Xavier Deshayes, and last year’s Judges’ Choice Champion – Chef Creig Greenidge from Barbados. The crowd anxiously awaited as Andrew Gelfuso, Vice President of TCMA, announced the Judge’s Choice Award Winner: Chef Moha Fedal of Morocco for his Marrakech Tangia (lamb shoulder, preserved lemon, saffron, turmeric, garlic, aged butter and olive oil sealed in a clay jar) – an exciting and impressive feat for Morocco’s first Embassy Chef Challenge appearance. The final tally of ballots for People’s Choice Award was presented by Erik A. Moses, Events DC Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Sports, Entertainment and Special Events. Edging out 26 of her peers, Chef Cynthia Verna of Haiti claimed the People’s Choice Award with her winning dish of shrimp served with plantain chips and aioli with fine herbs. Supporters and fans of both embassies cheered enthusiastically as the two champions took to the stage, raising their well-earned pineapple trophies.
This was the Reagan Building’s 7th year hosting the Embassy Chef Challenge, a signature program closing out the building’s World Trade Month celebrations.