How Two Top Chefs Reworked the Traditional Tasting Event

Chefs José Andrés and Alice Waters, along with noted cookbook author Joan Nathan, created a winning recipe for the Sips & Suppers fund-raiser.

By D. Channing Muller February 3, 2017, 7:15 AM EST

Photo: Courtesy of DC Central Kitchen

Sips and Suppers
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Two Washington nonprofits focused on ending hunger, DC Central Kitchen and Martha's Table, brought together mixologists and local artisans for the ninth annual Sips and Suppers fund-raiser January 28 and 29. Founded by chefs José Andrés and Alice Waters along with cookbook author Joan Nathan—all James Beard Award winners—the event differs from a traditional food and drink festival in that it's two separate events beginning with a cocktail party (the “Sips“) followed the next evening by 35 dinners at private homes (the “Suppers").

“We began this nine years ago, after a great idea by Alice [Waters] of bringing people together around a table and plate of food—and today more than ever, food should be what gives us a clue of who we are,” Andrés said in remarks at the Sips portion of the event. “We are here to be the United Nations of the food movement, and we all believe that food can bring us together and keep us moving forward. Food is love.”

The annual Sips returned to the Newseum on Saturday with a sold-out crowd of 1,000 people. Sips began two years after Suppers as a way to bring a younger demographic into the conversation about hunger in Washington with a larger event at a lower ticket price: $150 compared to the $600 Suppers tickets. It originally began in a private home for 60 people, then expanded to the Newseum the following year.

This year’s event had cocktails and light bites from 57 artisans, mixologists, restaurants, and sponsors. The food- and drink-tasting stations spread across the five floors of the museum, including a bar sponsored by Republic National Distilling Company in each of the atrium’s two glass elevators.

JetBlue returned as a sponsor with a branded lounge on the main level. There, Perfect Settings provided all-white lounge furniture accented by blue uplighting, the airline’s signature color, as well as two airline-theme cocktails from mixologist Gina Chersevani called the Window and Aisle. Whole Foods also returned as a sponsor with a game day-theme food station, a nod to the upcoming Super Bowl, on the top floor of the museum.

The $250 V.I.P. ticket provided guests early access to the event and a private lounge on the second floor with tastings from local distiller Jos. A. Magnus and Winebow Wines as well as California’s Gustafson Family Vineyard. Organizers also created ticket packages priced at $800 for V.I.P. access both nights, or $675 for general admission.

The next night, 70 chefs from around the world, including 49 from Washington, hosted private dinners for 600 people in 35 homes around the city. Nathan personally invites and pairs the two chefs that will cook in each home, and a team of volunteers coordinates the travel and accommodations as well as grocery shopping and delivery of supplies for each pair’s menu.

“People expect chefs it the community to do it, and they are excited to do it,” said Liz Reinert, director of business engagement and community involvement at DC Central Kitchen. “They really look forward to an invitation.”

The two-day event raised nearly $600,000, to be split evenly between the two charities. DC Central Kitchen also hosts the annual Capital Food Fight each November, which pits local chefs against each other in an Iron Chef-style competition.

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