Swedish chef Frida Johansson's mouthwatering offering: smoked elk, vasterbotten cheese terrine, lingonberries and thyme foam. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

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 site 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.

Far from it. After the jump, check out some of the plates and some of the highlights from last night’s event, a fundraiser for Cultural Tourism DC.

Chef Yerlan Abdrakhmanov of Kazakhstan borrowed a classic kitchen defense when I asked him what he uses to marinate his lamb shashlik: It's a secret, he said through an interpreter. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Chef Jose Luis Fernandez of the Peruvian Embassy won the People's Choice Award for his amuse-bouche of ceviche with causa. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Bulgarian chef Yordan Dimitrov's "terrines" were more like vegetables stuffed with a feta-like cheese. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

Michael Nathan Adderley, embassy chef for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, prepared a tostones cup stuffed with a ceviche of Caribbean lobster, which, as you can tell from the photo, is a much more intimidating creature than the Maine lobster. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

The Venezuelan chef Angel Lopez prepared "asado negro," which combined New York strip steak with fried plantains and both annatto and basil oils. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

The embassy chefs who competed for both the Judges' Award and the People's Choice Award. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

In the back room, organizers put out boards of antipasti, just in case, I guess, some guests' notion of international cuisine ended in 1963. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

The desserts for the evening were served on what looked like a swingset. Grant Achatz would have been proud. So would have many of the embassy chefs, who clearly drew inspiration from modernist cooking. (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)