Washington is not only a home to embassies, organizations and government, but also to arts and historic societies, and a world of culinary styles and flavors. In addition to its numerous restaurants, the city’s various embassies are often renowned for their cuisine. This becomes especially evident at the annual Embassy Chef Challenge, a competition for world-class embassy chefs.
It’s a world of culinary talent -- with tasty delicacies from China to Venezuela. These twelve chefs, all from their countries’ embassies in Washington, are doing their best to impress a panel of judges and more than 400 guests, at this year’s Embassy Chef Challenge but the annual Challenge is more than just a competition. It’s also a fund-raiser for Cultural Tourism DC, a coalition of more than 230 cultural, heritage and community-based organizations.
The group’s Executive director, Linda Harper, says all embassies are invited to participate in the Challenge. "It is somewhat first come first served, but we do try to get a geographic component to it. DC has more embassies than any other city in the world," she explained. "So it is a great opportunity to really explore the cuisine and the culture that is here.
In this competition, embassy chefs bring the distinct flavors of their own countries. Yordan Dimitrov, the chef at the Bulgarian embassy, has prepared a layered dish with colors of the Bulgarian flag, white, green and red. He explains when they found out about it they liked the idea and decided to participate and to compare his skills with skills of other chefs in Washington DC.
For Djamel Amroune, the Iraqi embassy’s chef, it was 400 servings of a traditional eggplant dip called Baba Ghanoush. "It is a challenging competition, showing different cultures of cooking," he said.
Chef Lars Beese, of the Royal Danish Embassy, took top honors for this year’s event. But Chef Jose Luis Fernandez from the Embassy of Peru, won the "Peoples’ Choice" award for his traditional Peruvian ceviche, which was quickly gone. "The influences and the heritage that has been left by other cultures that migrated to Peru have made the Peruvian cuisine special," Beese said.
Kinskyi Serhii, the chef at the Ukrainian embassy, says the Challenge is a great opportunity to learn new things about other cultures. Serhii says you have the opportunity to exchange views among chefs that represent different countries and to get something new and keep that knowledge for the next competition.
"We are bringing the chefs together," Harper stated. "They do not have a clue who each other are. So it is creating sort of camaraderie among the chefs themselves, as well as letting them really show what they are doing every day, what foods they are preparing and what the city is like."
This was the third edition of the Chef’s Challenge -- which also includes a silent auction. The proceeds will go to support such activities as "Passport DC," a month-long celebration of international culture in the nation’s capital.
Other participants in this year’s Chef’s Challenge included chefs from the embassies of the Bahamas, China, Kazakhstan, Sweden, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela.