The ‘Moving’ part of the Movement. Inspiring Words by Jose Andres and Alice Waters at Saturday Night Sips.

Robert Egger & Alice Waters

On January 22, 2011, Honorary Chairs Jose Andres, Joan Nathan and Alice Waters hosted Saturday Night Sips, a cocktail reception at the home of Greg Nelson in Washington, D.C., which was a kick-off event for Sunday Night Suppers, a benefit for D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table. Sunday Night Suppers is a series of fifteen dinners hosted in private homes in the D.C. metro area, which pair acclaimed chefs from across the D.C. area with local hosts in order to create an evening of passionate discussion, stimulated by the experience of sharing of a meal with others who are committed to helping to end hunger in the nation’s capital. Saturday Night Sips united some of the most dynamic and exciting chefs and mixologists in the District to celebrate the contribution youth are making to improve our food system and end hunger in D.C. Through a collaboration of chefs, organizations and concerned citizens, the combined events leveraged the power of several acclaimed chefs and community leaders to help raise awareness and support two extraordinary local charities that feed nearly 5500 citizens, every day, 365 days a year.

Saturday Night Sips to benefit the Martha’s Table and the DC Central Kitchen was not only an event to bring everyone together for a common cause, but it also helped foster the sense of community while providing thoughtful, inspirational and moving rhetoric. The words of Chefs Jose Andres and Alice Waters were particularly insightful and for me, providing the ‘moving’ part of the movement for a food economy that is good, clean, and fair.

Host, Greg Nelson, whose home was the site of the event, proudly announced that the event had sold out and had brought together people of all socio-economic backgrounds. He is author of the Social Epicurean, who has stated that, “Food brings people together. The sharing of a meal is one of those unique experiences in life where people of different races, colors and religions can come together and begin to build a foundation around a positive common denominator.”

He reported that there were over 225 people in attendance for Saturday Night Sips and that nearly $20,000 had been raised for the D.C. Central Kitchen and Martha’s Table. He said that, “Next year we are thinking of adding tents so that we can enclose the porches and backyard to create more space. But there we do not want more than 225 next year, because we want the event to stay a house party.”

Will Artley of Evening Star Cafe. Photo by L. Shapiro

It was a jammed-packed house party, as a matter of fact. There were eight dishes that were available provided by participating chefs, Will Artley of Evening Star Cafe, Graham Bartlett of Zengo, Antonio Burrell of Masa 14, Shannon Overmiller of The Majestic Cafe, Adam Sobel of Bourbon Steak, and Garret Fleming of Eatonville.

Out of the eight dishes, I only had a chance to try three, the Spiced Roulade of Pork Loin stuffed with home-made fenel sausage by Majestic, the Crispy local pork belly by Will Artley, and one Toby Bay Island (Massachusetts) oyster with spicy kim chi and citrus soju. All three were absolutely delicious; however, the pork loin was hard to cut with just a fork. I would have gladly wandered around for the other dishes, but the chefs ran out of clean serving plates before the speeches began.

Tammy Gordon, who has a popular blog, Florida Girl in DC said, “Maybe it was because I got pinned there during the speeches, but my favorite was Chef Garret Fleming of Eatonville’s veal cheek BBQ on pepper biscuit sandwiches. At a crowded event like that, not having to juggle a plate and utensils with your cocktail is brilliant thinking.”

Local writer, Jordan Wright of Whisk & Quill, who attended Saturday Night Sips said, “Any organization that brings assistance and awareness to the needs of our fellow human beings blesses us all in the process. Last night at the benefit for Martha’s Table and D.C. Central Kitchen, those who attended and those who gave of their time and talent, reminded us that DC really is a small town with a big heart.”

Greg Nelson introduced Joan Nathan, who has written ten cookbooks and the host of the acclaimed television series for PBS ‘Jewish Cooking in America’.

Joan Nathan. Photo by L. Shapiro

She introduced Alice Waters, chef, author, and the proprietor of Chez Panisse, who is well-known as one of the American pioneers of the culinary philosophy that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. She is a passionate advocate for a food economy that is good, clean, and fair. Over the course of nearly forty years, her restaurant, Chez Panisse located in Berkeley, California, has helped create a community of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady supply of fresh and pure ingredients. Waters is also the Vice President of Slow Food International, a nonprofit organization that promotes and celebrates local artisanal food traditions and is the author of eight books. At Saturday Night Sips, she spoke about how food brings people together and creates a community. She said, I think we’re in a place of changing the world. She told a story about how while getting ready for a large event a neighbor came to her and graciously offered to let her borrow her grandmother’s dishes. Waters explained that this type of community feeling is why they wanted to have Saturday Night Sips and Sunday Night Suppers in private homes. She thanked Greg Nelson for opening his home to everyone.

Adam Sobel and Jordan Wright. Photo by L. Shapiro

Jordan Wright said, “Her message of the interconnectedness of life clearly resonated with those gathered. Naturally she was preaching to the choir!”

She introduced Chef Jose Andres, who is the driving force behind the restaurant empire, Think Food Group and serves as the Chairman Emeritus for D.C. Central Kitchen and is the creator of the non-profit, the World Central Kitchen. Andres is very passionate about ending world hunger. He said that he remembers going to Alice Water’s restaurant, Chez Panisse and was astonished about how she served dates and clementine “and charged for them!”.

Jordan Wright indicated that she believed that it, “was a metaphor for the beauty and significance of the simpler things in life we are all guilty of taking for granted. In his always thoughtful way he urged us to scratch beneath the surface and look for a more holistic reward in life’s everyday gifts.”

Andres insists that with food as a language — we can make real change. He ignited the crowd with applause when he spoke about leveling the playing field for agriculture subsidies — so that smaller farms can compete. He said that smaller farms should receive as much government assistance as the larger ones.

Robert Egger, DCCK and Lindsey Buss, Martha's Table. Photo by L. Shapiro

Andres introduced Robert Egger, Founder and President of the D.C. Central Kitchen, (DCCK), the nation’s first “community kitchen”, where unemployed men and women learn marketable culinary skills while donated food is converted into balanced meals. Since opening in 1989, the DCCK has distributed over 20 million meals and helped 700 men and women gain full-time employment. He toasted the 41st graduating class who just completed their culinary training and praised the 42nd, of which some students were in attendance. He thanked Lindsey Buss, the President and CEO of Martha’s Table, which fights poverty in short and long term with food, clothing, education, and family programs.

Together chefs, community leaders and concerned citizens will unite to fight the immediate problems of hunger and poverty by focusing on solutions such as health, nutrition and education in Washington. The two events, Sunday Night Dinners and Saturday Night Sips raised a total of $148,000.

Tammy Gordon of Florida Girl in DC, said, “It was so nice that Greg and Jose opened up their home for Saturday Night Sips. Those personal touches along with the chefs and volunteers really made it one of the best foodie events of the year.”

Special thanks to Greg Nelson for the invitation to attend Saturday Night Sips.

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