When asked to compare Sunday Night Suppers, the annual series of chef-driven fundraising dinners, to the Jose Andres and Anthony Bourdain hosted Capital Food Fight, D.C. Central Kitchen chief executive Michael Curtin makes an important distinction.
“Perhaps the most important difference between the two . . . is the opportunity to have small conversations over dinner about hunger and the work we do to break the cycle of poverty, hunger and homelessness,” Curtin wrote via e-mail.
“While the Food Fight [is] in many ways a grand celebration of the work we do over the course of a year, these small gatherings give people an opportunity to reflect in a very meaningful way on that work,” Curtin added.
Anyone who has attended the sprawling Food Fight at the Reagan Building, where even the larger-than-life Andres has trouble being heard over the din, understands the appeal of these intimate gatherings held in private homes across the District. There is not only an opportunity to discuss Important Issues, but a chance to taste multi-course menus from some of the finest chefs in Washington, New York and elsewhere.
The list of participating chefs is impressive to even the most jaded of eaters. Among many others, it includes Mike Anthony from Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan, Elizabeth Bourgeois of La Mas Tourteron in Gorde, France, former 10 Arts chef and “Top Chef” contestant Jennifer Carroll, Scott Drewno from The Source, Joel Hough from Il Buco in New York, Haidar Karoum from Proof, Michael Solomonov from Zahav in Philadelphia, Vikram Sunderam from Rasika and Alice Waters from Chez Panisse, one of the founders of the dinners back during President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Did I mention that the price of admission for the dinners is steep enough to launch an Occupy Sunday Night Suppers movement?
Despite a price tag of $550 per person — a $50 increase over last year — there are less than 10 tickets left to the 20 separate dinners, notes cookbook author Joan Nathan. As with the past three dinners, Nathan is co-hosting the event this year with Waters and Andres.
You can check ticket availability here.
Not only has the price increased for the event, but so have the sheer number of dinners, up from 14 suppers last year. “I don’t know if we want to do more than 20,” Nathan notes. “It’s a bit much.”
The planning is a marvel of efficiency and generosity. Dozens of people have volunteered their time — although the chefs will receive a small stipend this year for groceries, for the first time — and suppliers of all sorts have donated ingredients, dishware and such. Congressional Seafood is donating the fish; Capital Meats is donating the beef and other meats; Jamison Farm is donating the lamb; Wegmans is donating groceries and Whole Foods is donating cold hard cash, Nathan notes.
The overhead for the dinners is very low, Nathan adds.
In all, organizers hope to raise about $200,000 for D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table (where Nathan sits on the board), split evenly between the two. If they reach that mark, it would be a $50,000 increase over last year’s donation.
For those who can’t cover the cost of a dinner ticket but still want to make a conribution to the two nonprofits that fight homelessness and poverty, organizers offer a more affordable option. Saturday Night Sips will be held, well, on Saturday night at the Newseum, which is donating the space for the evening. The event begins at 6:30 p.m. and costs $125 per person. You can buy tickets here.
Saturday Night Sips will, as the name implies, feature designer cocktails as well as small bites by chefs such as Antonio Burrell from Masa 14, Justin Bittner of Bar Pilar, Dennis Marron of Poste Moderne Brasserie, Michael Costa of Zaytinya and “Hell’s Kitchen” winner Rock Harper, now at D.C. Central Kitchen. There will also be an “Artisan Alley” this year as part of Sips, featuring handcrafted products from local chefs and companies.
Nathan, Waters and Andres are expected to be on hand for Saturday Night Sips, as well, so guests won’t feel as though they’re being deprived of their fair share of celebrity-chef time.