The Dish: Chefs for Equality

by WL Author

D.C.’s hottest toques and tipplers team up to raise money for marriage equality.

By Kelly A. Magyarics

When Cathy Nelson, the vice president for development and marketing for the Human Rights Campaign, reached out last summer to David Hagedorn to help organize a fundraiser for the marriage equality push in Maryland, he knew immediately he was in. “This is a basic civil rights issue to me, and something I truly believe in, he says.” (The issue of marriage equality is being put to a referendum in Maryland on Election Day this November.)

Restaurant Eve's Cathal Armstrong and The Inn at Little Washington's Patrick O'Connell are among the many chefs participating in HRC's Chefs for Equality fundraiser. (File photo)

Culinary-based fundraisers are nothing new to Hagedorn, as Nelson knew. He created the Chef’s Best for Food and Friends 22 years ago, which has evolved into a major chef event in the area. So he reached out to friends and colleagues, and chefs — either calling them directly or accosting them on Facebook and Twitter, he admits. He and mixologist Todd Thrasher go way back; one call and Hagedorn knew he had the support of all the area’s top bar talent. (Hagedorn’s partner Michael calls him the “Venus Fly Trap of fundraising,” after all.) “I was blown away by the outpouring of support, but not surprised. We simply have the best chef community in the country here in Washington, D.C.

Friends Christopher Vazquez and Rick Davis of Amaryllis Inc. Floral and Event Design immediately agreed to design the entire event, creating a theme that combines that of a chef benefit and a wedding expo, complete with wedding cakes as desserts.

The result of these tireless efforts became Chefs for Equality: Meet and Greet; Eat and Defeat, an evening of deliciousness for a great cause. On October 24, 2012, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., guests in the ballroom of the Ritz Carlton D.C. will enjoy sips and apps from the area’s best culinary talents. Fashion icon and television personality Tim Gunn is set to emcee the event, and Gov. Martin O’Malley is the featured guest.

Here is the impressive list of participating chefs:

Jamie Leeds, Hank’s Oyster Bar
Cathal Armstrong, Restaurant Eve
Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen
Erik Bruner-Yang, Toki Underground
Haidar Karoum, Proof/Estadio
Bryan Voltaggio, Volt
Jeff Black, Pearl Dive Oyster Bar
Jose Andres, ThinkFoodGroup
Enzo Fargione, Elisir
David Guas, Bayou Bakery
Dean Gold, Dino
Michel Richard, Central
Mike Isabella, Graffiato
Cedric Maupillier, Mintwood Place
Todd and Ellen Gray, Equinox
Jeff Buben, Woodward Table
RJ Cooper, Rogue 24
Kyle Bailey, Birch and Barley
Tiffany MacIsaac, Buzz Bakery
Victor Albisu, Taco Bamba
Mary Lee Montfort, Mary Lee’s Desserts
Kimberly Robinson, Makin’ Whoopie
Aaron McCloud, Cedar
Scott Drewno, The Source
Teddy Folkman, Granville Moore’s
Kaz Okochi, Kaz Sushi Bistro
Jeff Tunks, Passion Food Hospitality
John Critchley, Urbana
Dennis Marron, Poste Moderne Brasserie
Danny Bortnick, Firefly
Ris Lacoste, Ris
Jim Jeffords, Evening Star Café
Logan Cox and Alison Reed, Ripple
Scot Harlan, Green Pig Bistro
David Winer, EatWell DC
Vikeram Suderam, Rasika
Nicholas Stefanelli, Bibiana
Peter Smith, PS7s
Terry Natas, Carmine’s
Billy Klein, Café Saint-Ex
Justin Bittner, Bar Pilar
Jon Mathieson, BLT Steak
Michael Harr, Food, Wine & Co.
Harper McClure, The Federalist
Emily Spissler, Mayfair and Pine
Michelle and Christophe Poteaux, Bastille

Tearing up the shakers are D.C.’s best mixologists: Todd Thrasher (TNT); Adam Bernbach( Proof/Estadio); Gina Chersevani, (Eddy Bar/Buffalo and Bergen), Derek Brown (Columbia Room); Jeff Faile (Fiola); Bryan Tetorakis (Rogue 24); Jon Harris(Firefly) and Andrew Shapiro (Green Pig Bistro).

In addition, a handful of lucky auction winners (auction available online right now at can partake in a five-course dinner for eight, personally prepared for them by a duo of superstar chefs with wine pairings personally offered by top-flight sommeliers.

The evening also features tableaux vivants of men’s and women’s fashions; a top-end auction featuring fashion, home accessories, jewelry, trips and restaurant packages; and special video appearances by star chefs like Roberto Donna, Art Smith and Patrick O’Connell, offering fabulous auction items.

Graffiato is hosting the after-party from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., with small plates by Mike Isabella, Scott Drewno and Teddy Folkman, along with cocktails and a DJ.

Tickets for Chefs for Equality originally cost $300 each. But, as of October 16, 2012, due to a large contribution from HRC board member Paul Boskind, prices have been reduced to $150, and can be purchased at

Kelly Magyarics is a wine, spirits and lifestyle writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website,, or on

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