Bourdain Banter and Other Highlights From the Capital Food Fight

Former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn's Thai-inspired beet salad earned him a strong second place. Photograph by Chris Flynn.

Last night, the Iron Chef-style Capital Food Fight brought local chefs and foodie celebrities together for a culinary battle to raise funds for DC Central Kitchen. Chef and event chairman José Andrés and his cohost, culinary bad boy Anthony Bourdain, provided colorful commentary as contestants faced off using surprise ingredients. A panel of high-profile judges—Le Bernardin/WestEnd Bistro chef Eric Ripert, Top Chef host Tom Colicchio, and White House pastry chef William Yosses—added to the pressure. Meanwhile, hungry fight-goers grazed on dishes from more than 60 Washington restaurants and bakeries.

In the end, it was a close battle between Top Chef alum Spike Mendelsohn (Good Stuff Eatery; We, the Pizza), who crafted a Thai-inspired beef salad, and the Source’s Scott Drewno, who won the evening with a seared scallop topped with wasabi gremolata. He may have been crowned victor, but there wasn’t just one Food Fight winner last night. See our complete list of show-stealers below.

>>For photos of the event, check out DC Central Kitchen's flickr page here

Best hair: Eric Ripert. They call him the Silver Fox for a reason, but next to the shiny-bald Colicchio and Yosses, is it really a fair competition? Runner-up: Colicchio. The star chef can rock the cue-ball look better than anyone else on television.

Biggest blooper: Each round of the Food Fight saw a new secret ingredient that the chefs had to base their dishes around, such as Applegate Farms chicken sausage. Though it was fun to hear master of ceremonies Mark Kessler draw out the surprise with a long lead-up, the excitement was spoiled by an overhead projection of the ingredient shown before his big reveal. Runner-up: In his closing comments, Andrés said: “Some people have friends, but I have friends,” he said. When he realized his mistake, he laughed, “there’s a big difference. Think about it.”

Most winning Bourdainism: Hosts Andrés and Bourdain shared curmudgeonly banter and threw friendly barbs all night, but Bourdain’s best zinger came during his first few minutes onstage: Noting Andrés’s button-down shirt and khakis, Bourdain remarked that “once again, he stole his clothes from somebody outside a methadone clinic.” Later, Bourdain got a little of his own medicine. When a McCormick’s spice blend was unveiled as a secret ingredient, Tom Colicchio called out from across the stage “Anthony, I know it’s a powdered substance, but don’t snort it!”

Most winning ham: José Andrés was jokester of the night, especially when the celebrity chefs teamed up to prepare dishes, with Colicchio and Andrés facing off against Bourdain and Ripert. “Oh, no,” Andrés joked, “I have not cooked in 30 years! I do not know how to peel the shrimp!”  Bourdain shot back: “At least I’m not saddled with a partner who can only cook out of a Toyota Highlander using the Glad family of products,” he said of Colicchio.
Runner-up: One of the secret ingredients of the night, jamón Ibérico.

Most successful fish-and-dessert combination: Tuna and salmon were given a sugary twist in three different preparations (which in our opinion is three too many). The best was from the Source, which passed out tuna tartare in a lightly sweet sesame tuile. Runner-up: It was a tough call between Belga Café’s smoked-salmon waffle with goat cheese and Poste’s salmon tartare in a waffle cone with crème fraîche. Because syrup was accidentally used on the former, the prize goes to the cone.

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Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.