The Washington Post

Face Time: Hosan Lee

Picnic master, conversation starter

The very nature of a picnic encourages mingling and exploring new tastes. That’s why Washingtonian Hosan Lee saw alfresco feasting as the ideal way to launch Table Tribes, a new organization that facilitates relationships via food and drink. Her first event, a nine-week picnic series, is meant to gather D.C.-area thought-leaders for chef-prepared meals and enlightening conversations in parks across the city. The delicious experiment is now in its third successful week. Submit an application for a coveted invite ($65 if you’re accepted) at

What about food is so unifying?
There are a handful of universal binders that, anywhere you go in the world, people will bond over. Food and drink are the most accessible. Two others are sports and weather.

What kinds of food do you serve?
We’re collaborating with chefs around town [Wes Morton of Art and Soul, Scott Gallegos of Muse]. I told them I don’t want restaurant food. I don’t want seven-course dining. I want something that if they were going to have a picnic for loved ones, what would they serve? This is food you can only get if you’re best friends with the chef and they invite you to their home. And it’s picnic style, so anything that fits in a bowl or a plate.

What else can attendees expect?
Every picnic has a theme and a director [vulnerability led by Amy Saidman of Speakeasy D.C., the role of art in cultural life led by interior designer Christopher Boutlier] and discussion collaborators who mingle with the crowd. It’s meant to be organic and conversational. No one is coming in with a PowerPoint presentation. Every now and then they address everyone at large, but we’re still playing with different formats.

Can you explain why you have an application process?
It’s meant to get people to reach out to other people and get a conversation going. There are only two prompts: How does your life taste as a pie; and ask a friend or a loved one what their favorite food memory is. It really comes down to people have to be open-minded and open-hearted. That’s all I’m asking for.

Why is D.C. the right place to start something like this?
People here are so passionate, engaged and smart. They’re not just sitting back and wanting to do something, they’re actively doing something. They’re trying to solve problems and save the world and it’s not just coming from some idealistic, naive place.

Are there any conversation topics that are off limits?
You mean like religion, sex and politics? No. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Any of those topics can be interesting discourse and create a good dialogue. You just have to talk about it well.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at



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