The Washington Post

Chefs for Equality is back, with a larger goal in mind

When D.C. chef turned food writer David Hagedorn and the Human Rights Campaign started organizing the inaugural Chefs for Equality last year, they had a strategic target in mind: to raise funds to pass Question 6 in Maryland, which asked voters whether they wanted to uphold the same-sex marriage law signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).

David Hagedorn, right, with his spouse, Michael Widomski, left, with Gov. Martin O'Malley. (Tom Williams/Human Rights Campaign) David Hagedorn, right, and his spouse, Michael Widomski, left, with Gov. Martin O'Malley at last year's Chefs for Equality. (Tom Williams/Human Rights Campaign)

Voters narrowly approved the question, and now Hagedorn and HRC are back for more. This time, Hagedorn says, they're aiming at the states where same-sex marriage remains illegal. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,  according to HRC.

Last year's Chefs for Equality raised about $100,000 for the cause, Hagedorn says. This year's event, scheduled for Oct. 30 at the Ritz-Carlton on 22nd Street NW, should eclipse the 2012 total. Hagedorn says he's aiming for "$150,000 and $200,000" for the second Chefs for Equality. Between cash and in-kind donations, the event is pushing the $100,000 mark already, he says.

Not that Hagedorn finds that surprising. Last year, he and HRC had only weeks to pull the event together.

"We really didn't start talking about it until August," Hagedorn says of the event held Oct. 24, 2012. "But it's easy in this town. We have an amazing chef community."

And mixologists. This year's Chefs for Equality features more than 90 chefs and mixologists, whether local icons such as Patrick O'Connell from Inn at Little Washington and Todd Thrasher from Restaurant Eve, or promising newcomers such as Jennifer Nguyen at Zentan and Adam Schop at Le Diplomate. The full list of participants can be found on the Chefs for Equality site.

The format is much the same as last year: Chefs will pair off to create a multi-course meal for one lucky table of eight diners. "They really pull out all the stops for these tables," says Hagedorn. Last year, Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground and Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen prepared a spread that included everything from charcuterie to dim sum.

Accordingly, the tables don't come cheap. They're $5,000 each, and of the 10 tables available, seven are already sold out.

Not to worry: If the tables are out of your price range — or just not available anymore — the event also includes general admission tickets for $150 each. And if that's beyond your reach, Chefs for Equality will have an after-party at Kapnos, chef Mike Isabella's whole-animal emporium on 14th Street NW. Tickets for the Kapnos event are $50 each. You can purchase tickets to either events here.

The theme for this year's Chefs for Equality, Hagedorn says, is "Kinky Boots," a nod to Cyndi Lauper's Tony Award-winning musical. "I know in Washington, you can't get people to dress up," says Hagedorn, a frequent contributor to the Food section. Then he pauses.

"But maybe you can get them to wear fabulous shoes."

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires he ingest more calories than a draft horse.



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