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Everyone understands that the competition between chefs at the Capital Food Fight is all in good fun. You know, for a good cause and all that stuff. But make no mistake, the chefs have their egos on the line, too. I mean, how could they not? Many of the area’s finest cooks are crammed into the same room for several hours, each trying to put their best food forward. Among the toques I saw at the event: Jeffrey Buben, Jeff Black, K.N. Vinod, Roberto Donna, R.J. Cooper, Peter Smith, Kaz Okochi, Tony Conte, Barton Seaver, Ris Lacoste, and others.
I got a small taste of the pressure they must feel following the very first battle, which paired Smith from PS 7’s against David Deshaies from Citronelle, two of the most talented toques in the city. The secret ingredient was bourbon peaches. Both chefs had 10 minutes—-I repeat: 10 MINUTES—-to prepare a dish for the judges to taste. Deshaies made some sort of stuffed peaches thing with a peanut-butter sauce; Smith made an open-face roasted duck sandwich with pecan butter, a peach sauce and a peach salad. The judges preferred Smith’s creation.
Someone in the audience cried foul to me later. The comment: “Technically speaking, the secret ingredient is supposed to be the focus of the dish….But you didn’t hear that from me.” When I spoke to Smith and related the anonymous remark, he uttered a two-word response, which he immediately said was off the record. Too bad. It was pretty goddamn funny.
For the record, Smith had this to say: The peaches were featured in more than one place in the dish, which to him meant that the peaches were the focus. “I wouldn’t say the duck is the main focus.”
I got the sense I was pissing Smith off. I dropped the subject and moved on. It was a charity event, after all.