Chefs, foodies, and even a couple celebrities gathered at The Liaison Hotel late Saturday night for the Inaugural Chef’s Ball. Here’s who we spotted, what was worth eating, and why this ball was not a snoozer:
The Chefs: Art & Soul chefs Art Smith and Wes Morton co-chaired the event, while Toki Underground‘s Erik Burner-Yang, The Source‘s Scott Drewno, Equinox‘s Todd and Ellen Gray, D.C. Central Kitchen’s Rock Harper, and Bandolero/Graffiato‘s Mike Isabella prepared small bites with proceeds from the event going to the charities of their choice. We also spotted Del Campo‘s Victor Albisu, Belga Cafe‘s Bart Vandaele, and former Blackbyrd chef de cuisine/Top Chef contestant Jeffrey Jew.
The Charities: Common Threads, The Cambodian Children’s Fund, Prevent Cancer Foundation’s George Washington Mobile Mammography Unit, Washington D.C. Jewish Community Center, D.C. Central Kitchen, James Beard Foundation.
The Celebrities: The most buzzed-about famous person was Modern Family actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who meandered around with fiancé Justin Mikita by his side. CBS This Morning co-host and Oprah Magazine editor-at-large Gayle King and Democratic Illinois Governor Pat Quinn were also in attendance.
The Food: Considering this was the Chef’s Ball, there was surprisingly little food. Drewno served up Chinese dumpling soup, dumpling dough knots, and duck wontons. Bruner-Yang dished out a steamed coconut fish curry. Harper made crab salad with chow chow on a honey cornbread cracker. Gray featured “modern day” brisket with rose radish potatoes. And Isabella gave partygoers the first taste of his forthcoming Greek-inspired restaurant Kapnos with mini gyros. The U.S. State Department chefs prepared pistachio green tea mousse cake with roasted sesame brittle for dessert.
Best Dish: The crowd descended like vultures on Art & Soul’s friend chicken and waffle skewers. There’s a reason even Lady Gaga loves it (though sadly, she did not make an appearance).
The Drinks: The open bar served up three wines, three beers, and two cocktails—the “Stayin’ Put” with gin, berry puree, and sparkling wine and the “Stickin’ Around” with Bulleit Boubon, orange bitters, orange juice, and club soda.
The Vibe: More like a New Year’s Eve than inaugural ball. Whereas some inaugural balls don’t get people moving until the very end, the DJ had people on the dance floor almost immediately (with an assist from hits spanning from Adele to Bruno Mars.
The Crowd: Decidedly on the younger side. Y&H guesses the majority of attendees were in their 20s and 30s.
Dress: “Celebration,” according to the invite, “everything goes from black tie to no tie.” Bow ties were especially in vogue; Smith wore one from Ferguson’s Tie The Knot collection.
Photo Mike Isabella and Art Smith (right) by Jessica Sidman