A dozen toques were supposed to vie for the Judges’ Award last night at the third annual Embassy Chef Challenge at the Ronald Reagan Building in the District. But Wei Meng, chef for the Chinese Embassy, wouldn’t be eligible for the title because he didn’t participate in the preliminary competition March 26, and chef Marufjo Muradov from the Uzbek Embassy, was a no-show. But he had a good reason: Right before the event started, he was taken to the hospital for an unknown condition.
Which is more than officials could say for one of the star judges for the evening. Good Stuff Eatery and We, the Pizza’s Spike Mendelsohn had a “last-minute scheduling conflict,” which sounds like celebrity-chef speak for, “I have better things to do.” At least the other former “Top Chef” contestant, Tamesha Warren of the Oval Room, had a good excuse for not arriving. She had a death in the family.
But you know what? Even with the smaller pool of competing chefs and the lower star-wattage over at the judges’ table — sorry, boss — the Embassy Chefs Challenge was still a great chance to sample many of the international cuisines found hiding in plain sight in our fair city. Lars Beese, the chef at the Royal Danish Embassy, may have walked away with the Judges’ Award, but his smoky asparagus soup and roast duck with plum chutney was not the only quality plate of the evening.