Scott Drewno has participated in the last two Sips & Suppers, the all-star fundraising dinners hosted annually by Alice Waters, Jose Andres and Joan Nathan. But this year will mark the first time the Source chef has actually, well, collaborated with his esteemed kitchen partner to create every single dish for the multi-course dinner, one of 26 planned this Sunday in private homes.
So allow Drewno to explain how his partnership with Toki Underground's Erik Bruner-Yang will differ from his previous suppers with chefs Todd Gray of Equinox and Victor Albisu of the forthcoming Del Campo:
"The first two times we rotated dishes," says Drewno during a phone conversation. "So I did a course, Todd did a course, I did a course. Same with Victor last year; we just sort of rotated. This year, Erik and I are doing a total collaboration on each course."
Drewno's sudden comfort at co-engineering dishes has much to do with his comfort with Bruner-Yang. The chefs worked together twice last year, once with an anniversary noodle dinner at the Source and again with a Chinese New Year pop-up at Toki Underground. The two will also host an Industry Takeover at Graffiato on Feb. 4.
"Erik and I are both super-open to the other person," says Drewno. "When you're collaborating, you have to kind of take your own ego out of it and really trust the other person . . . I know he's a great chef. That's the easy part. I know whatever he brings, whatever his components of the dish are, they're going to be great. My challenge is to make sure that I'm living up to his expectations."
The Drewno/Bruner-Yang collaboration is just one of several intriguing chef partnerships for this year's Sips & Suppers. Some notables include Jeff Buben of Vidalia and Woodward Table pairing up with Siggi Hall of Restaurant Siggi Hall for an Icelandic dinner, as well as Albisu and Mike Isabella of Graffiato and Bandolero collaborating on a kosher Greek- and Spanish-influenced meal. The Icelandic dinner is sold out, but tickets are available for many of the other collaborations on Sunday. You can buy Supper tickets for $550 here as well as $95 tickets to the informal Sips reception on Saturday at the Newseum. Proceeds go to D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha's Table.
For the Year of the Snake, which begins on Feb. 10, Drewno and Bruner-Yang have cobbled together a Chinese New Year menu that borrows from a number of Chinese traditions and superstitions. Their second course, for example, is a "Chili XO Longevity Noodle," with prawn and bay scallop takoyaki, in which the noodles are generously long, as if they were uncut. "That symbolizes a long life," Drewno says.
For the dessert -- or what they're calling the "pastry course" -- the chefs are serving up a "Deconstructed Sticky Cake," with a five kernel streusel and pandan leaf ice cream. "You're supposed to have the sticky cake and leave it out to offer to the Chinese kitchen god, so the Chinese kitchen god looks favorably upon your kitchen for the new year," Drewno says.
Such an offering is a smart play for Sips & Suppers chefs who have to walk into a stranger's home and use the kitchen. "The house is great, but you don't have four and six-burner ranges. Three ovens. Salamanders," Drewno says. "You don't have all the things we take for granted in a professional kitchen."
"When you're doing off-site catering or cooking in someone's home," Drewno adds, "it's so much more difficult. If you forget anything, you're at the mercy of the house."