You could have a wonderful evening attending a gala that benefitted an important cause like ovarian cancer. You could also have a great time at an event featuring the food and drink of over fifty of the top female chefs and mixologists in DC. But combine the two into one event, on one evening, and if you’re anything like me, your head just exploded. Because there is such an event and it’s coming soon — the 12th Annual Turn Up the Heat Gala on February 22 at the Ronald Reagan Building.
Let’s start with the cause. Ovarian cancer is the deadliest form of gynecological cancer. Every year 22,000 women in the US are diagnosed with the disease. One of the particular challenges — and what makes it particularly deadly — is that there are no tests for early detection. The money raised at the gala will help support the work of the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA), which directly funds private research and advocates for federal research dollars. Other funds will go to help support women before, during and after a diagnosis, and to run innovative programs like the one connecting ovarian cancer survivors with medical students to help the students better understand the disease and care for their patients.
The gala was created in 2006 by Chef Ris Lacoste — then at 1789, now at Ris — and Pat Goldman, OCRFA board member and survivor. Lacoste and Goldman were both friends with beloved San Francisco chef Barbara Tropp, who died of ovarian cancer in 2001 at the age of 53. (Off point, but Tropp’s China Moon cookbook is one of my all-time favorites; it has the recipe for one of my go-to dinner party favorites, Cold-Poached Salmon with Ginger-Black Bean Vinaigrette.)
The organizers of the event agreed to send Ris a couple of questions on my behalf. Maybe they thought I was with Eater DC and not Rick Eats DC. Anyway, I was thrilled when she responded. You can tell from my questions that I’m no Sam Donaldson.
What does it mean to you that all of the participating chefs are women? It was my idea to have an all-women event. I have participated in charity events in DC for 30 years – I thought it would be fun to get the female chefs and pastry chefs together for a women’s cause. We then invited all of the restaurants not run by women and asked them to send the female members of their staff. The first year Jamie Stachowski came dressed in drag. Of course, men are always more than welcome. It is awesome for the girls to be together, however. We really love it!
What will you be making and are there tricks to deciding what to make for these types of events? I will be making our delicious vegetarian dish, “Crown of Cauliflower,” cauliflower, lentils, spaghetti squash, yogurt, pomegranate, lemon, mint. You want to make what is delicious in a bite or two, that travels well, that reheats well. We are often limited by heat source so we have to be smart. After all, you are hoping to seduce the guests to coming to your restaurant so you always want to wow them and generally speaking, you always just want to put your best foot forward. Otherwise, no tricks. I try to make something that would appeal to women although the event is well-attended by both men and women.
Besides Ris, dozens of impressive female chefs and mixologists will be showing their stuff on February 22. The list is too long for the blog but you can find them here. It includes folks like Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Smoked and Stacked, Seng Luangrath of Thip Khao, and Ilyse Fishman Lerner of newly-opened On Rye. This year, Chef Amy Brandwein of Centrolina will not only be a participant, she’ll be receiving the inaugural “Chef on Fire” award that recognizes the accomplishments of a female chef in the DC area.
It’s not often we can do good and eat well at the same time. It’s a no-brainer — which is a lucky thing since you’ll recall your head exploded earlier. Click on the link above for tickets and I’ll see you there.