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Washington Chefs Gather to Drink and Eat Despite Thunder, Lightning, and Driving Rain

The event served to thank supporters of Chefs for Equality.
Bruce Neal, Patrick O'Connell, Brian Noyes, and Dwight McNeill at the Chefs for Equality party Tuesday evening. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

Patrick O’Connell, chef/owner of the Inn at Little Washington, and Brian Noyes, chef/owner of Warrenton’s Red Truck Bakery, both blew in from rural Virginia Tuesday night despite approaching thunder, lightning, and rain. Todd Gray of Equinox was so intent on being there he raced over in his white chef’s jacket, dappled with raindrops. No one was going to let summer storms get between them and a good party.

The event was at Joe’s Stone Crab to thank those who gave of their time and talent (and food) at last year’s Chefs for Equality dinner, and to set the stage for this year’s gala at the Ritz-Carlton West End on September 23.

As the city’s foodie elite feasted on a trough of crab, oysters, shrimp, and scallops, food writer David Hagedorn, a cohost of the gala, praised “the greatest chef community in the entire country” for supporting the LGBT Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which the dinner benefits. As Hagedorn raised his glass to “the chefs, the mixologists, the pastry chefs, the auction donors,” Marcel’s chef/owner, Robert Wiedmaier, interjected sotto voce, “and the sommeliers.” Hagedorn replied, to laughter, “The sommeliers, of course. Thank you, Robert Wiedmaier, my agent, though I think 20 percent is a little high.”

Other food names in the room included Derek Brown of the Shaw trio Eat the Rich, Mockingbird Hill, and Southern Efficiency; Maria Trabocchi of Fiola, Fiola Mare, and Casa Luca; Ris Lacoste of Ris; Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground; Scott Drewno from the Source; David Guas of Bayou Bakery; and Billy Klein of Joe’s, among others.

Robert Wiedmaier, sunburned from a recent fishing excursion, with David Hagedorn, one of the principal organizers of the Chefs for Equality annual gala. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

One chef who wasn’t there, Michel Richard, still got some buzz. Wiedmaier, a close friend of the owner of Central and the shuttered Citronelle, confirmed that Richard has moved back to Washington from New York, where he has more or less parted company with his two dismally reviewed Midtown restaurants. Wiedmaier said Richard is, for the moment, holding court at Central but hinted at the possibility of a resurgent Citronelle.

Trabocchi, who has been welcoming a long menu of celebrities to her new Fiola Mare in Georgetown, mentioned that actor Pierce Brosnan, who has been in a few times recently (his son is interning in Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey’s office), lived up to his charm as the fictional characters James Bond and Thomas Crown.

But Hagedorn made sure to keep the evening focused on the cause at hand. With Virginia’s contested same-sex marriage ban now in the hands of an appeals court, and marriage equality is “within our grasp over the river,” he said, the theme of this year’s fundraiser will be “Virginia Real.” Expect moonshine.

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