DC’s Culinary and Political Scenes Converge at the Capital Food Fight

José Andrés rallies up the crowd at Capital Food Fight. Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for DC Central Kitchen's Capital Food Fight.

The post-election mood in Washington has been anything but celebratory, especially since more than 90 percent of District citizens voted for Hillary Clinton. By contrast, the 13th annual Capital Food Fight was a celebratory evening on Thursday, as over 1,000 guests came together to sample offerings from 75 DC restaurants and raise $694,000 for DC Central Kitchen. The nonprofit organization leads efforts to combat hunger and provide culinary job training for the unemployed. 

Attendees loaded up their plates with tasty bites, like Bryan Voltaggio’s venison Bolognese with kale pesto and Le Diplomate’s foie gras macarons. Some even took gleeful selfies in front of the local chefs battling on-stage in an Iron Chef-style challenge. 

Guest judge Duff Goldman, former host of Food Network’s Ace of Cakes, helped animate the crowd by cracking jokes about the mystery ingredients (“What do you do with a sausage this big?”). Fellow judge Michael Voltaggiowho will soon open a steakhouse in the MGM National Harbor casino, also joked about his reputation (or lack thereof): “Bryan Voltaggio does have a brother and he’s from Maryland, too.”

Still, co-host José Andrés frequently reminded the crowd of the political climate. The restaurateur, who refused to open a restaurant in Donald Trump’s DC hotel and spoke at a Clinton rally in Florida, appeared on stage wearing a t-shirt that read “I am an immigrant.” His running commentary included several veiled references to the perceived perils of a Trump presidency.

Before announcing the winner of the first battle, Andrés asked, “Who is going to win the popular vote?” Or the electoral vote?” When a chef started making sausage meatballs stuffed with avocado, Andrés said, “California avocados? That’s good because pretty soon we won’t have avocados from Mexico.”

Jokes aside, guest judge Spike Mendelsohn told Washingtonian that he thinks DC foodies may need to reconcile with a Trump presidency. “It doesn’t matter what president is in action—we’ve always had hurdles in our food system that we’ve had to overcome,” he said. “José is very politically involved, and he’s a mentor for me. But now it’s time to support whoever comes to DC.”

Editorial Fellow

Maxine is an editorial fellow passionate about covering food, news, and politics. Her work has also been published in Forbes, Marie Claire, and Inside Higher Ed. She recently graduated from Brown University with honors in nonfiction writing.