Charity Spotlight: DC’s Top Female Chefs Fire Up a Culinary Indulgence

by Georgia Slater

Baby, it may be chilly outside, but on Tuesday, March 5, the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) will warm things up with its ‘Turn Up the Heat’ event to end ovarian cancer. For one night, guests can explore the culinary talents of DC’s top female chefs, restaurateurs and mixologists with all things sweet, savory and sip-able to raise funds for Ovarian Cancer research and serve survivors and their families.

OCRA is the largest investor in ovarian cancer outside of the U.S. government, fighting the disease with research in the lab, and at the policy level with backing on the Hill. ‘Turn Up the Heat’ is OCRA’s  signature fundraiser, raising nearly $3 million since it was founded.

With 300 attendees expected, as well as over 40 chefs and mixologists, this year’s event will take place at The Anthem (901 Wharf Street SW) and will be hosted by ovarian cancer survivor Chef Elle Simone of America’s Test Kitchen on PBS. Calling herself the “culinary Oprah,” Simone has battled her way as a woman of color in the male-dominated food industry, and has now made it a mission to guide and mentor women hoping to break into the culinary world.

Simone will be announcing the 2019 “Chef on Fire” to another incredible female chef that has been impacted by ovarian cancer:  Chef Seng Luangrath of Thip Khao, the Laotian restaurant that has quickly climbed to the top of the D.C. food scene.

“Just recently, a friend of mine passed away from ovarian cancer,” said Luangrath, “I’m dedicating my participation in OCRA’s largest fundraising event to her.”  When Washington Life caught up with her, Luangrath was still in awe about being approached for the “Chef on Fire” honor. Not only did she express excitement and pride about celebrating among such incredible female chefs at the event, but she also told Washington Life of the surprise of her restaurant’s rapid success.

“When you open a restaurant, you always hope it takes off, but you don’t really expect it to happen fast.  I cherish every single good thing I have achieved with my restaurant,” she said.

Luangrath joins past “Chef on Fire” honorees Marjorie Meek-Bradley (St. Anselm) and James Beard Award nominee Amy Brandwein (Centrolina), along with a long list of Washington’s female culinary visionaries at this year’s event. Among these women will be Colleen Murphy of Blue Duck Tavern, Tracy O’Grady of 1789 Restaurant, Lauren Matthews of Urbana, Kelsey Burack of DBGB Kitchen & Bar by Daniel Boulud, Chef Ruth Gresser of Pizzeria Paradiso, and outstanding eateries like Georgetown Cupcake and Hank’s Oyster Bar.

Luangrath will be preparing Khao Poon for the benefit.  “[It] is a celebration dish, a curry noodle soup we have at parties and family gatherings,” she said. “I really wanted to show a little piece of how we celebrate in my family, I can’t wait for everyone to try it!”

OCRA President and CEO Audra Moran said that having the top female chefs in Washington, D.C., supporting the cause “sends a powerful message to all those affected by the disease, while also creating a fantastic evening of food, cocktails and fun.”

Ovarian cancer is one of the deadliest cancers for women, and there are over 200,000 women in the U.S. currently battling the disease. This year alone, over 22,500 women in the U.S will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and ‘Turn Up the Heat’ is just one of the many events that aims to raise money for research on the disease.

General admission for the event begins at 6:30 p.m., with early entry at 6 p.m. for VIP ticket holders. For more information about “Turn Up the Heat”, OCRA and to purchase tickets, visit

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