Alice Waters, left and Eric Asimov sign books for fans. (Photo Emily Heil) Alice Waters, left and Eric Asimov sign books for fans. (Photo Emily Heil)

Chefs might have been serving up fine charcuterie and artisanal gelato to a stylish crowd of foodies at the Sips & Suppers gala held at the Newseum on Saturday night, but they had far more basic sustenance in mind, too. The event, a sort of roving buffet catered by high-end restaurants and food purveyors founded by foodie icons Alice Waters and Joan Nathan, benefits Martha’s Table and the D.C. Central Kitchen, two organizations devoted to feeding the city’s hungriest.

Waters, the restaurateur whose Chez Panisse helped start the farm-to-table movement decades ago, signed books and posed for pictures with fans alongside New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov, then mingled among the revelers. She said members of the restaurant community, even those used to dishing only the most exquisite delicacies, are surprisingly willing to donate time and resources to help the needy. “You go into the restaurant business because you like to feed people,” she said. “The giving of food is a language of care.”

And Carla Hall, the local caterer whose career — she’s now a co-host of ABCs food-centric talk show “The Chew” — was launched by a stint on ‘Top Chef,” took an entirely practical view.  The fancy food, of course, is bait for donors who like to eat well while they’re doing good. “Whatever it takes to get people to open up their wallets,” Hall said.

Behind the scenes, the chefs who participated in the benefit, which spanned not just the Saturday night bash, but also small dinner parties held in private homes and catered by top toques from as far afield as San Francisco and New Orleans, stayed busy.

The group toured the White House kitchens at the invite of pastry chef William Yosses, and brunched on Sunday at Nathan’s home, where the ever-competitive chefs planned a friendly pastrami-off.

Martha’s Table president Patty Stonesifer lauded their generosity.  “The people who celebrate food every day also feel really deeply that no one should be without three meals a day.”