In Record Time, Chef Alice Waters Organizes and Sells Out an Inaugural Charity Event Supporting Sustainable Agriculture

By Walter Nicholls January 14, 2009, 12:05 PM EST

For those in the food world, a ticket to sustainable agriculture queen Alice Waters’ inauguration eve dinner at the Phillips Collection gallery— called “Art. Food. Hope."—is as good as it gets. Staged for the benefit of charities that feed the Washington community, with 11 satellite dinners cooked by celebrity chefs in private homes, the event’s 500 $500 tickets sold out within days of being issued, and there is a waiting list of more than 100.

Remarkably, the complicated event was organized by Waters, the staff of her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, and in-house event coordinator Sarah Weiner in the second week of December. “It was Alice’s idea to bring together Obama supporters, sustainable farmers, volunteer chefs, and community charities,” Weiner said. “It’s amazing, in two weeks we had the venue, the chefs, and donors like Veuve Clicquot.”

Waters, the kitchen staff of Chez Panisse, and Washington’s Susan Gage Caterers will coordinate the meal for 170 people at the Phillips. New York-based clothing and houseware designer Christina Kim, owner of Dosa, will make the table linens and drape spaces with sustainable materials. At the dinners in the private homes of city philanthropists and notables such as journalist Bob Woodward celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud, Nancy Silverton, Lidia Bastianich, Rick Bayless, and more will cook for groups of 22 to 40 guests.  

Ingredients for the family-style dinners will be sourced from local farms, ranches, diaries, and fisheries. Waters will shop for some of the dinner provisions at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm farmers market on Sunday morning. Proceeds benefit D.C. Central Kitchen, Martha’s Table, and FreshFarm Markets.  

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