Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Don't miss Cooking of Campania this Thursday on Dish Network!

The Campania region of southern Italy is home to Mount Vesuvius as well as the bustling city of Naples. The volcanic soils of Campania grow some of the best produce in Italy. Join Lauren and Chef Enzo Febbraro of D’Acqua Ristorante to make Insalata Caprese bites, Bruschetta, Gnocchi with Neapolitan Ragu, Salt Crusted Branzino, La Torta Caprese and the Blue Grotto Cocktail.

Produce (i.e. tomatoes used in Caprese and Bruschetta), cheese and fish are staples in the Campania diet. Campania's most famous cheese is the Mozzarella di Bufalo Campania, made from the milk of local water buffalos and gracing such favorites as Insalata Caprese. Seafood is another staple of Campania's coastline with fish fried in olive oil a favorite of Naples, while other specialties make use of local octopus, cuttlefish, squid, clams and mussels. The Salt Crusted Branzino is a perfect addition to this healthy diet. Lauren finishes off the meal with a sparkling melon cocktail that get its name from the cool blue waters near the Isle of Capri.

Capital Cooking with Lauren DeSantis airs on Colours TV Network every Thursday at 6 p.m.EST. Find all of the schedule at: CoLours offers multi-cultural and multi-ethnic programming highlighting educational and cultural issues of African, Asian, Latin, and Native Americans. For further information visit their website at

Watch Capital Cooking on the Dish Network channels 9396 and 9407. CoLours is currently available on cable from the following carriers: Time Warner, Comcast, Insight, NCTC and Cox .

Watch each episode and learn from the pros how to make delectable food right in your home. Lauren makes recipes fun and easy to prepare for anyone with any level of cooking.

Don’t miss the upcoming episodes every Thursday at 6:

Farmers Market Supper – 4/8

Meet me St. Louis - 4/15

1789 – 4/22

Mexican Fiesta – 4/29

A Rustic Roman Afternoon – 5/6

Ethiopian Cuisine – 5/13

Taste of Morocco – 5/20

Asian Cuisine 5/27

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Do you have an idea for America’s next great restaurant? Are you sitting on a billion dollar concept? If you think your restaurant idea has what it takes to go national and bring in millions of hungry Americans, read on...

From NBC and Magical Elves, the Emmy Award-nominated producers of "Project Runway" and "Top Chef," comes a big-event competition that will award one contestant the opportunity to see their idea turned into reality with a new restaurant chain opened in three cities across America! The contestants' fate will be decided by a panel of some of the most important names in both the dining and business worlds that will invest their own money in the final restaurant chain and have a huge stake in the ongoing success of the game's winner.

There are TWO options for you to apply:

  1. Attend an OPEN CALL, at one of the cities below
  2. Follow the directions on our website for SUBMIT BY MAIL instructions.

(Hint: pitching in person is fun.)

Please go to for all information, to download an application and pre-register for an open casting call at one of the eight stops on the nationwide casting bus tour. Along with a filled out and signed application and a photo-ID, we want you to bring anything you feel would help pitch your restaurant concept. Elements could be visual, edible, audible (jingle anyone?) or even wearable. . . Keep in mind you will have a limited time to pitch your idea, so make it count.

You can also can follow the bus tour on Twitter @magicalelves, with photos and video available on

Good luck and have fun with it,

The Magical Elves Casting Team



Friday, March 19 & Saturday, March 20

NBC Experience Store

30 Rockefeller Plaza

New York, New York 10112

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Monday, March 22


6102 Falls of Neuse Rd.

Raleigh, North Carolina 27609

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Wednesday, March 24

Nashville Film Institute

The Factory at Franklin

230 Franklin Road

Franklin, Tennessee 37065

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Friday, March 26


4750 Morse Rd

Columbus, Ohio 43230

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Sunday, March 28


28251 Diehl Road

Warrenville, Illinois 60555

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Tuesday, March 30


6864 Johnson Drive

Mission, Kansas 66202

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Thursday, April 1


2760 South Colorado Blvd

Denver, Colorado 80222

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.


Monday, April 5


135 E. Palm Avenue

Burbank, California 91502

10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday, March 26, 2010

March Madness Duke Blue Devil Cocktail

I'm sure lots of people will be watching games. Why not throw a party with specialty drinks for your favorite team?!

How about the Duke Blue Devil:

  • 1 1/2 oz Malibu Rum

  • 1/2 oz Blue Curacao Liqueur

  • Splash of Orange Juice

  • Splash of Sour Mix

  • Pour all liquids into a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a martini glass. Go Duke!
    Make other drinks in your favorite team's colors.

    Happy Fourth Anniversary Lima!

    The drinks were flowing and the food was never ending as Lima celebrated its fourth anniversary on K Street last night. Journalists, lawyers, and Hill employees comprised the guest list.With three signature drinks and house specialties, such as empanadas, ceviche, and an entire cheese bar, guests were more than satisfied.

    Although his guests could not get enough of the food, executive chef, Raynold Mendizabal, could not wait to get out of his chef coat and start the real party. After hors d'oeuvres and cocktails the three story restaurant and lounge turned into a club for the rest of the night.

    If the number of people who attended last night's event doesn't already convey how beloved Lima is, then make your way there this weekend and you will see what it's all about.

    1401 K Street NW
    Washington, DC 20005

    Lima Restaurant and Lounge

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Bourbon Steak Does it again with the help of Gryffon's Aerie Beef

    Trio of Chocolate

    Collins Huff invited me to a delightful lunch at Bourbon Steak to try some of his grass-fed beef.

    Gryffon's Aerie Grass-Fed Beef Burger with Tamworth bacon and sweet onion fondue
    Gryffon's Aerie Meatballs with Ricotta Cavatelli and Sunday Gravy
    Gryffon's Aerie Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio with Tuscan Olive Oil, Shaved Fennel, Sicilian Pistachio, and Parmesan. This Carpaccio was my favorite...fresh flavors and just so good.
    Trio of Duck Fat Fries
    You can never go wrong with these fries!
    Collins and Ramona Huff

    Milking Devon and Beef Devon cattle, Tamworth pigs and Cotswold and Karakul sheep all grazing on gently rolling hills, sounds like centuries old farmstead. This is what you will discover at Gryffon’s Aerie in Whitehall in Historic Albemarle County. I can't wait to see their farm!

    The farm was established in 1999 and our goal was to raise the best possible grass fed beef and lamb as well as natural pork without harmful hormones and unnecessary antibiotics. The beef will be available at the FRESHFARM White House Market in May.

    Bourbon Steak

    (202) 944-2026
    2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20007

    Bourbon Steak on Urbanspoon

    Flashback: Hosting Weekend Guests

    Hosting Weekend Guests sadly never aired because of lighting issues. This show started out with practical tips for hosting guests in your home and finish with recipes by Chef Brian Pease including: quiche, apple crisp and a tasty pomegranate martini with friend Allison.
    Photos by Reggie Marston

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Review: Cava

    I don't make it over to the Capitol Hill restaurant scene very often, but recently I was invited to a private dinner party at Cava around 8th St SE. 

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Thank you U Street Girl

    I live in the U Street neighborhood and I read U Street Girl to follow the latest news. I was excited when she posted about the new opening of Du Vin Osteria, but then when I read a post late last night that U Street Girl had removed a comment that had been posted to her blog after receiving an email from David Shott, the owner of planned new wine bar Du Vin Osteria, I wasn't as excited. Shott had threatened legal action against the blog, according to U Street Girl. U Street Girl posted about the new restaurant and I guess Shott was unhappy with one of the comments from a reader... Get over it! The guy hasn't even opened the doors of his restaurant and he's already threatening bloggers that are actually trying to promote his new place. Great way to enter the neighborhood!

    Food Law: FDA Cracks Down on Labeling Violations, According to Benjamin L. England, of, LLC

    Earlier this month (March 3, 2010), U.S. Food & Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg issued a Press Release announcing a major and broad initiative to increase FDA enforcement against illegal claims on food labeling, including unauthorized Nutrient Content Claims, health claims, and all drug and disease claims. FDA is also committed anew to cracking down on technical violations on both the Front of Package labeling and on Nutrition Facts Panels., LLC, a US-based FDA consulting practice owned by Benjamin England, a 17 year FDA veteran with over 20 years of practical FDA labeling compliance experience, believes that this is the beginning of a major effort to stop imported foods, imported beverages, and imported dietary supplements in their tracks before they are able to reach US consumers. “The easiest violation for FDA to find is a labeling violation,” says England at “FDA does not have to test the product to find the problem. The inspector just looks at the label,” he continued. Food labeling, beverage labeling and dietary supplement labeling requirements can be highly technical, as several dozen domestic and foreign food and beverage manufacturers learned this month.

    FDA recently issued more than 15 “Warning Letters” to major food and beverage manufacturers on February 22, 2010 and an additional, such as Dreyers Grand Ice Cream, Inc., Gorton’s, Inc., Schwan’s Consumer Brands, Beech-nut, Spectrum Organic Products, Inc., Nestle, Inc., Sunsweet Growers, POM Wonderful, Pompeiian, Inc., and Diamond Food, Inc.

    FDA seems particularly focused upon food labels that bear false or misleading claims about fat content in foods, which are a type of nutrient content claims. These content claims dominated FDA’s warning letters, including allegations that well known food and beverage makers and distributors were improperly using words such as “light”, "cholesterol free," "plus” and "good source” in food labels without meeting the strict regulatory criteria that apply to such claims. In a bit more nuanced move, FDA attacked “antioxidant” claims for food ingredients and nutrients. FDA’s position is that an “antioxidant” claim amounts to an implied nutrient content claim. Apparently the agency is prepared to back up its position by threatening enforcement action. FDA clearly believes the consumer is influenced by nutrient content claims on food and beverage labels, which is good for food and beverage companies. But, in FDA’s view, with influence comes responsibility.

    The agency is also taking issue with improper or missing percentage juice claims, which leave the consumer with a false impression that a juice blend with added flavor is a 100% juice. Not unsurprisingly, FDA found illegal and fraudulent disease and drug claims on a number of food labels and labeling (including product labels and product websites). What might be more surprising is FDA finding these claims in places industry is not used to FDA looking – advertising and internet marketing materials.

    Bad Food Claims Bring FDA Import Alerts and Warning Letters

    FDA is clearly taking a strict enforcement position with respect to food labels, beverage labels and dietary supplement labels. US law and FDA regulations limit the types of claims which may appear on the labeling of most foods and drinks. The rules also impose complex and specific technical requirements on whether and how nutrient content claims and health claims may be made. Drug (disease) claims which purport a food can treat, prevent, or cure a disease are strictly prohibited on all food labeling (except some medical foods, which have their own unique legal category).

    When FDA finds illegal food label claims or nutrition labeling violations on imported foods, FDA may (or may not) give the foreign manufacturer warning before placing the food or the foreign manufacturer on FDA Import Alert. Being placed on an Import Alert creates a significant trade barrier for foreign food, beverage, and dietary supplement manufacturers and exporters. “The worse part of this story is that FDA Warning Letters and FDA Import Alerts for labeling violations can all be avoided by getting the labeling right,” says England of England concluded, “With increased focus on nutrition in the US, there comes an increase in FDA enforcement against bad, false or improper label claims and nutrition labeling. It’s the sign of the times, at least during the present governmental cycle. Imported food is just a big fat target because it all has to go through the Customs and FDA bottleneck at the border. As FDA increases its border inspection capacity, the number of FDA detentions and refusals (and import alerts) related to labeling errors is sky rocketing.” England and represents many foreign food, beverage and dietary supplement manufacturers and marketers as well as US importers who are confronted with FDA and Customs problems.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    The Return of a Washington, D.C. Legend: Georgetown’s ‘Social’ Safeway Slated to Open May 6

    Store Will Be Company’s Third DC Opening in 20 Months

    The “Social” Safeway will again open for business, but in a striking, brand-new building, just in time for Mother’s Day, on Thursday, May 6, at 1855 Wisconsin Avenue, NW. This will mark Safeway’s third new full-service grocery store opening in the nation’s capital in 20 months, and the company’s most state-of-the-art store, that will also be its greenest to date.

    It is the company’s 16th store in Washington, DC, and will operate 24-hours a day. Festivities celebrating the store’s opening will begin on Wednesday, May 5 with an exclusive, invitation-only gala to be held at the store that evening. The grand opening ceremony with ribbon cutting will take place the following morning on May 6.

    Corporate History in City

    The new 71,067 square-foot Safeway - constructed only 376 days after closing on April 26, 2009 - will continue to promote the character and historic nature of its upper Georgetown neighborhood, maintaining the open, inviting atmosphere that resulted in people dubbing it the “Social” Safeway. This store has been nicknamed the "Social" Safeway by its customers, largely given its tradition as a hub and natural meeting place for friends and neighbors, right alongside the power brokers and members of Washington’s elite, who have been known to regularly frequent the store. Safeway welcomes the opportunity to provide a newly enhanced store for the community to gather and shop.

    In order to bring this new lifestyle concept to the neighborhood, the existing Safeway was razed with the new store being constructed at the front of the former parking lot, creating a more urban pedestrian-friendly storefront. Safeway’s sales floor will be located entirely on the main level of the new retail center, which will also feature several street-front shops. There will be an entrance on Wisconsin Ave. to Safeway’s lobby where shoppers will easily access the store via escalator, stairs or elevator. The store will shelter abundant parking directly underneath with additional open air parking spaces located on a deck at the store’s rear customer entrance.

    Safeway has strong roots in the Georgetown community, beginning nearly 80 years ago when the company acquired the Sanitary Grocery Company and operated for many years in Georgetown as Sanitary Grocery before changing the banner to Safeway.

    This will be the fourth Safeway store at this location on Wisconsin Ave. Since its early beginnings in Georgetown, each new facility was designed to set the standard in grocery retailing. This store will be the urban supermarket for the 21st century, and will have the distinction of being both the greenest and largest grocery store in the District while still respecting local architecture and scale.

    Store Highlights and Amenities

    The Georgetown Safeway will utilize its popular lifestyle format. This floor plan emphasizes the store’s perishable offerings with an ambience previously associated with department stores, creating an environment not often found in the retail grocery business. The use of wood such as mahogany and other natural materials is prevalent throughout the service departments, along with kiosks that replace the traditional counter areas found in previous generations of Safeway stores. Recessed energy efficient incandescent and halogen lighting is now used to establish a warm atmosphere and direct attention to the merchandise within each department. Construction of the store incorporated USGBC (U.S. Green Building) green building practices, as will its building operations.

    Inside, the store will truly illustrate and underscore Safeway’s dynamic Lifestyle concept with its wider array of offerings that will appeal to a myriad of shoppers. Highlights include an expanded wine and beer section that will feature a wine cellar complete with a wine steward on staff; a, specialty cheese department with a cheese expert and certain varieties flown in fresh daily from Europe; sit-down sushi bar with sushi chefs preparing the menu on-site; brick-oven pizza featuring the exclusive Genuardi’s brand; fresh, Italian-style gelato bar; an upgraded Starbucks coffee bar, along with an indoor/outdoor seating area featuring a fireplace, HD televisions, complimentary WiFi, and open balcony overlooking Wisconsin Avenue.

    Customers will also be able to enjoy some of the standard convenience amenities found in many Safeway stores such as a SunTrust Bank and Bergmann’s Dry Cleaners, along with the more traditional offerings of a pharmacy, the widest variety of essential grocery and general merchandise items, full-service deli, service meat counter able to accommodate special orders, a large floral shop with ready-made bouquets as well as customized orders, and expanded fresh seafood department.

    The open-flame hearth oven, where European-style Artisan breads will be baked fresh daily, will serve as the focal point for the full-service, from scratch bakery. Shoppers will encounter a bakery more reminiscent of a patisserie, and can select from an assortment of fresh breads (featuring several exclusive varieties with guaranteed hot French bread available during dinner hours) and baked goods in addition to a wide assortment of gourmet desserts and personalized birthday and wedding cakes.

    Another unique element will be found in the Produce Department with a nut bar offering a wide selection of warm, ready-to-eat nuts that can be flavored or ground on site to create spreads and butter. In addition, hundreds of varieties of fresh produce, including the broadest assortment of organics, will be available in the large produce area.

    Within the key service areas, the deli (identified by "At Your Table" signage) offers a wide variety of hot and cold prepared foods including the company's line of fresh Signature Stock Pot soups, made-to-order sandwiches and salads. Other features within the department will include a separate self-serve olive bar, salad bar and home meal replacement bar where shoppers can select from a variety of hot entrees and side dishes to create ready-to-serve meals in a matter of minutes.

    The new store will feature an expanded floral department with an array of household and decorative accessories in addition to an expansive assortment of fresh-cut flowers, topiaries and potted plants. The floral staff, which will include designers, will also be able to assist shoppers with custom orders for weddings, proms and other special occasions.

    In the meat department, a specially designed service case will be found, allowing customers to personally select from a choice of freshly cut or fresh, pre-packaged meats and to receive cooking tips or recipe ideas from the in-store chef. Shoppers will have the option to have all fresh meat and seafood seasoned or marinated for them at no additional cost. Many varieties of fresh fish and seafood will be on display and ready for purchase in the seafood case.

    The Georgetown store was designed and built to be the first LEED-certified grocery store in the District of Columbia, and Safeway’s second LEED-certified store (the other being located in Santa Cruz, Calif.).

    Safeway Inc. is a Fortune 50 company and one of the largest food and drug retailers in North America based on sales. The company operates 1,725 stores in the United States and Canada and had annual sales of $40.8 billion in 2009. The company’s common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol SWY. Safeway supports a broad range of charitable and community programs and, in 2009, donated more than $250 million to important causes, such as cancer research, education and hunger relief.

    Safeway’s Eastern Division employs approximately 18,000 people and operates 172 stores, including 37 Genuardi's Markets in Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, with 73 Safeway stores in Maryland, 42 in Virginia, 15 in the District of Columbia and five in Delaware.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    COCHON 555 is headed back to New York City this week!

    New York City 555 is this weekend and tickets are almost gone. A killer lineup of chefs, wineries and butchers are coming together - details below.

    Please check out our new website

    Sunday, March 21st, 5:00 p.m.
    VIP Reception 3:30 p.m buy tickets

    MARK LADNER - Del Posto

    CORWIN KAVE - Fatty 'Cue
    MARCO CANORA - Hearth
    ADAM KAYE - Blue Hill New York
    GAVIN KAYSEN - Café Boulud

    Elk Cove Vineyards
    Gamble Family Vineyards
    Wind Gap Wines by Pax Mahle
    K Vintners
    Buty Winery

    For those attending the VIP reception get ready, Domaine Serene will be showing a selection of reserve wines from Oregon. The VIP will also include a cheese display by Murray's Cheese, brews from Brooklyn Brewery and cocktails from Templeton Rye and mixologist Daniel Hyatt. Local winery, Shinn Estate Vineyard is also pouring a selection of wines, and don't worry, they are not too far away from the oyster station. For those looking for pig in the VIP, Butcher Tom Mylan of The Meat-Hook will be doing a whole animal cut demo. Joshua Applestone of Fleishers Grass-Fed Meats will be nearby to answer questions. Also, before Herb Eckhouse from La Querica sneaks into the judges room, he will sample some of the Green Label.

    In the main room, five chefs will be serving tastes from the whole heritage breed pig they prepared during the week. Guests will travel between five different wine regions while chatting with Pax Mahle or Charles Smith. Butcher Ryan Farr 4505 Meats will be on site to butcher a heritage pig, we will be raffling pig parts to be finished followed by swine'n'sweets prepared by Roni-Sue's Chocolates. Don't miss out, this event will sell out!

    The purpose of Cochon 555 NAPA is to promote heritage pigs and breed diversity in local and national communities. Also, to raise awareness for Farms for City Kids, a unique educational program combining classroom study with first-hand farming experience for urban youth.

    WHERE: Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers Entertainment Complex

    23rd & Hudson River, New York, NY

    COCHON 555 is the only national chef competition promoting heritage breed pigs and breed diversity.

    Chefs, selected for their support of local agriculture, each prepare an entire heritage breed pig from head to toe for the event. Guests and professional judges determine a winner based on utilization, presentation and overall best flavor. The event serves as a link to preserving heritage breed pigs by promoting breed diversity in the national culinary community.

    Cities and Dates

    Napa, Devin Knell
    New York, Mar 21
    Boston, Ma 28
    Stillwater, OK, Apr 3
    Southwest Regional
    Atlanta, Apr 18
    Southern Regional
    Des Moines, Apr 24 Midwest Regional
    D.C., May 2
    Portland, May 16
    Seattle, May 23
    San Francisco, Jun 6
    Grand Cochon 2010 presented by Food & Wine Classic in Aspen on June 20th

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    The Weekly Round Up

    • Prince of Petworth reports the opening of Dickson Wine Bar at 903 U St. NW. The new venue had a soft opening on March 10, 2010 and a grand opening is expected soon.
    • Washington Post's Tom Sietsema reports the Whisk Group, which owns Againn, will open up a sister restaurant in Rockville this summer. The restaurant will be named Againn Tavern and will offer more seating.
    • Sietsema also reports soon to open Casa Nonna named Amy Brandwein as head chef. The Italian restaurant is set to open this summer in Dupont Circle.
    • District Tattle highlights the opening of new burger place, Rogue States. Find them at 1300 Connecticut Ave. NW.
    • Also in burger news, District Tattle further reports BGR: The Burger Joint of Bethesda and Alexandria is opening a new location in Arlington this spring.

    Belgium wins Embassy Chef 2010

    Cultural Tourism DC and the Embassy of Sweden presented the Embassy Chef Challenge 2010 at the beautiful House of Sweden sitting in an ideal location on the water in Georgetown. This experience brought me back to the International Food Festival at Duke Law where the students go the opportunity to show off their cooking skills and feature dishes from their home countries. The Embassy Chef Challenge was a huge success!
    Over 400 guests sampled dishes of competing chefs including Chef Aysha Murad, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain presenting chickpea kababs served with bread.Chef Viktor Merényi, Embassy of the Republic of Hungary (Winner of the March 7 Safeway Challenge) presenting smoked catfish, served with chicken-celery salad, mesclun lettuces, cauliflower foam, and beet-root "caviar"
    Chef Ana Maria Mas, Embassy of the Republic of Panama, presenting jumbo shrimp and avacado salad over vol-au-vents. (One of my favorites!)

    Chef Francis Otoo, Embassy of Ghana, presenting shrimp kose.
    Chef Jan Van Haute, Embassy of Belgium presenting Walk Through Belgian Cuisine, featuring pork, brussel sprouts, mustard, Belgian endive, and Leffe brown beer.

    Chef Einat Admony, Embassy of Israel (People's Choice Winner), Chef Jae-ok Chang, Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Chef Chetnath Bhandari, Embassy of Nepal, and Chef Sunil Kiriwane, Embassy of the State of Qatar. His Excellency Vladimir Petrovic, from the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia also participated in the culinary showcase.
    Celebrity judges including Alchemy Catering and Top Chef finalist Carla Hall, Chef Michel Richard of Citronelle and Central and Washington Post food editor Joe Yonan, Chef Martin Johansson of the Embassy of Sweden selected Hungary’s Chef Jan Van Haute as the Embassy Chef Challenge Winner based on the total points from both competitions; popular vote went to Israel’s Chef Einat Admony.
    The Embassy Chef Challenge also offered a sneak peek of Cultural Tourism DC's Passport DC 2010. Congratulations to all of the chefs. You are all winners!!

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Meet Chef Sunil Kiriwane of Qatar

    How did you become an Embassy Chef?
    While I was working at Jeddah Hilton (K.S.A) hotel, I learned the State of Qatar had a vacancy a chef. I thought better take more responsibility in myself and become an Embassy chef, so I took the chance. The ambassador was grateful to me and I was selected as an Embassy chef. In Rome at the Qatar Embassy I felt it was so diffrent than the hotel trade but I took the challenge and now I am doing my job successfully.

    Where did you train?
    I was trained by my mother, while she cooked I helped to her when I could. I always had home made food. After high school I joined the National Apprentice and Industrial Traning Authority (N.A.B) in 1997 and stayed for three years period. I successfully completed the program and graduated in Sri Lanka. My first job was at the Susse hotel (3 star) and I worked there around 1 year. Then I joined the Galadari hotel (5 star) and stayed until the end of 2003. Later I joined the Hilton hotel and worked there another year. Since the end of 2004 I continued my career with Qatar Embassy. It was very helpful to me and increased my skill.

    What is your favorite dish to make?
    Another difficult question but I love to cook roasted baby lamb and I would have to say I also like to make fast food.

    What was the most difficult part of the March 7th Challenge?
    It was lottery system for who would cook first, I had a number one. I was little nervous when I saw the lot of secret ingredients. How I use many of ingredients from them and choose many things to prepare my salmon dish. I think, it was most deficult part of 7th challenge.

    Why do you think you made the winning dish?
    My first priority was to participate in the chef challenge. Also, I was satisfied that I used the main ingredients and created a fabulous dish. I am happy with my dish.

    What is your favorite restaurant in DC?
    La Madeline is my favorite restaurant; I like their French Onion soup .

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Flashback: What is DC Cuisine?

    Very first episode
    Interviewing people on the streets of Eastern Market
    Half-Smokes available for sale in Eastern Market

    We started the show with DC Cuisine and learned how to make the famous half-smoke at Ben's Chili Bowl. We interviewed people at Eastern Market to find out their views of DC Cuisine and received mixed responses. We wanted to go back to the studio to show the viewers how to make the chili half-smoke, but we never ended up doing it so the show was only 10 minutes long. It is still available on You Tube and aired on DCTV in 2008. This was in the very beginning when we filmed with Reggie Marston and my friend Jessica Lanza. We filmed again about a month later in the Fairfax Channel 10 television studio in March of 2008. Meet me in St. Louis and Mexican Fiesta had flaws, but we had only just begun. Keep reading in the next few weeks to find out more about the progression of the show.

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Meet Chef Francis Otoo of Ghana

    It all began with one dish but unlike most dishes Francis Otoo had created, this one was eaten and loved by former president Bill Clinton. It was this meal that launched Chef Otoo into becoming the head chef at the Embassy of Ghana. After 15 years in the culinary world, Chef Otoo continues to embrace every opportunity and considers each competition and state dinner a "privilege and an honor."

    Originally training to become a dietitian, Chef Otoo discovered his passion for nutritional, healthy cooking. "In a world consumed with healthy eating, it's important for me to create nutritional and delicious meals," says Chef Otoo. Balancing work and school, he attained the highest culinary degree in Ghana and continued his education with numerous classes in London and the United States. Despite his years of training, Chef Otoo continues to view "cooking as an art" and approaches each dish with a creative mindset.

    Although he loves to cook dishes from around the world, his favorite meal to make is a salad. His background in nutrition not only encourages him to create healthy food for others but also for himself. A salad may sound simple but Chef Otoo asserts it can be as filling as any other dish. With an abundance of vegetables and meats, a perfect salad can be hardy and well presented.

    In regards to the March 7th challenge, Chef Otoo is confident he made the winning dish. Creating poached salmon and potato gnocchi made from rice flour and served with roasted vegetables drizzled with truffle oil, he believes his attention to nutrition and the difficulty creating the potato gnocchi from rice flour will win him the top prize. Chef Otoo's confidence is not only due to his skills but also to his strong religious beliefs, stating, "God brings color to whatever I do."

    When he is not busy cooking at the embassy or in competitions, Chef Otoo is planning for the future. Writing an international cookbook, opening a restaurant in DC and creating a chain of restaurants in the U.S. and Ghana are just a few things on his agenda.

    Even though he does not go out to eat often, his favorite restaurant in the DC area is Finn and Porter of Alexandria. With fresh fish and excellent sushi, Chef Otoo is always sure of the quality and taste of the food. It is this consistency he expects from himself and that he is sure to bring to the March 18th challenge.

    Meet Chef Jan Van Haute from Belgium

    How did you become an Embassy Chef?

    After 10 years of working in restaurants in many different countries, I wanted to find an excellent job abroad as an Executive Chef and gain international experience and expertise. It is my dream to one day own my own restaurant business.

    My father works for the Belgian government. Without my knowledge, he e-mailed friends and acquaintances all over the world and was informed of an opening in Washington, DC. I started working for the Ambassador of Belgium to the United States in February of 2009.

    Where did you train?

    My Grandmother is the first person who taught me cooking. My Uncle had a huge catering company and my Grandparents were living next door to his business. My Grandmother helped him and was busy every day cleaning vegetables (cleaning carrots and beans is still vivid in my mind). I was the only one of the family who liked to help.

    When I was 14 years old, I decided to go to the ‘Spermalie’ Culinary School in Bruges. I learned a lot of skills there. From the first day of school, I realized this was the place for me. After completing my studies, I started to work for the Belgian Royal Palace, for Her Majesty Queen Fabiola. Two years later I was hired by the Marquetterestaurant to be a chef de party for the Belgian Master Chef. I learned much and became used to the hotline. I worked briefly for a higher rated restaurant called ‘De Weinebrugge’. I was only 24 and together with a good friend and fellow food lover I decided to take a break for about a year. We went on a ten-month culinary trip around the world. I liked traveling a lot and decided to go to Australia. I worked for Vue de monde in Melbourne. I was also hired as a sous-chef to prepare the food for the national day celebration at the Belgian Embassy in Canberra.

    When I returned home, I worked for the best restaurant in Belgium, the Michelin 3-star ‘Hof van Cleve’. I was responsible for the fish, meat and sauce section. During these two years, I also went for a month to Tokyo, Japan, to learn the basics of Japanese cuisine. In Tokyo, I worked for a Michelin 2-star restaurant called ‘Ryu Gin.

    What is your favorite dish to make?

    I don’t really have a favorite dish. I love to work in ‘fine dining’ cuisine. I like to use local products and follow the four seasons.

    What was the most difficult part of the March 7th Challenge?

    A kitchen that I was unfamiliar with. The time limit as well.

    Why do you think you made the winning dish?

    I like a modern touch on a dish. Art meets food. Before I create a dish I think about the different tastes, textures and colors. But the competitors were skilled so we will see …

    What is your favorite restaurant in DC?

    I still have many local restaurants to try but at this time it is ‘Belga café’ on Capitol Hill. I hope to go soon to Minibar by Jose Andres. I have heard a lot of good comments.

    Green Hour

    These are happy hours featuring local or organic food and beverages at various venues around DC from March 18 to April 23.

    The first “Green hour” event is happening this Thursday and next (March 18 and 25) at The Phillips from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. We would love to see you and your readers there.
    The Phillips
    1600 21th St, NW
    Washington D.C., 20009

    With the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day less than five weeks ago, District foodies and environmentalists alike can use these events as a great way to support the environment and learn more about Earth Day activities planned for The National Mall, April 17-25.

    Please find more information on future events and location at

    Monday, March 15, 2010


    Cultural Tourism DC’s second annual Embassy Chef Challenge features 12 outstanding chefs from Ghana and Israel to Belgium and Panama, all competing on Thursday, March 18 (6:30 – 10 pm) at the breathtaking House of Sweden (2900 K Street, NW) for the evening’s awards. Ambassador of Sweden Jonas Hafström and his wife, Eva, join Cultural Tourism DC in welcoming guests to the nonprofit organization’s benefit, which includes a silent auction and entertainment.

    Leading up to the main event is Challenge Sweden, presented by Safeway, on Sunday, March 7, when six embassy chefs will cook head-to-head, Top Chef-style. The cook-off takes place in the kitchens of Occasions Caterers in Northeast Washington. Chefs from Belgium, Ghana, Hungary, Korea, Panama, and Qatar each receive salmon and a basket of surprise ingredients, drawn from Swedish cuisine. They have two hours to prepare a main course. The judging panel, which includes Martin Johansson, Embassy of Sweden chef, will reserve the name of the winner for the night of the Embassy Chef Challenge.

    On March 18, all 12 chefs, including two ambassadors, prepare hors d’oeuvre for Embassy Chef Challenge guests and the judging panel, including Joe Yonan, The Washington Post food and travel editor; Michel Richard of Citronelle; Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora; and Chef Carla Hall of Alchemy Caterers and a Top Chef finalist. Event patrons vote for the People’s Choice Award, while the judges nominate their favorite.

    Finally, chefs competing in both Challenge Sweden and the Embassy Chef Challenge are eligible to win the evening’s grand prize, Embassy Chef 2010.

    “The Embassy Chef Challenge is on the cutting edge of the cuisine experience from around the world, and Washington, DC is the epicenter,” said Susan Clampitt, Embassy Chef Challenge benefit co-chair. “What better way to sample an international experience than by partaking of food offerings from every continent – right here in our nation's capital.”

    The Embassy Chef Challenge provides a sneak preview – an “appetizer” – for Cultural Tourism DC’s Passport DC 2010, a celebration of international culture held in May (

    Proceeds from the Embassy Chef Challenge, which is presented in collaboration with the Embassy of Sweden, benefit Cultural Tourism DC. Tickets are available for purchase online at and by phone at 202-661-7581.

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Looking for a Lunch Spot? Try Crepe Amour!

    During the week, lunch gets neglected. With Cosi and Au Bon Pain at the corner of every street in DC, it's easy to grab a quick bite but is it satisfying? After the hundredth Signature Salad or cup of clam chowder, it is time to try something new.

    That something new is recently opened Crepe Amour on M Street (next to Rhino bar). Unlike most creperies, Crepe Amour has everything from savory to sweet crepes, as well as an impressive espresso bar. These crepes are not the traditional ham and cheese or Nutella; rather, they are entire meals and desserts normally found at restaurants wrapped in a thin pancake. To satisfy your inner child, try the Mac-n-Cheese crepe; it is messy, so be sure to eat it with a knife and fork. If you are feeling spicy, check out the buffalo wings inspired crepe. No visit to a creperie is complete without dessert and the Coco Loco is sure to satisfy anyone's sweet tooth. Filled with Nutella, bananas and coconut, this is a dessert that needs to be shared due to its size and immense amount of sugar.

    If you are in the neighborhood or just need some time out of the office, make your way to Crepe Amour and celebrate the lunch hour.

    Find Crepe Amour at:
    3291 M Street
    Washington, DC 20007

    Crepe Amour

    Logo courtesy of Crepe Amour.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Weekly Round Up

    First Real Word and now Top Chef? A "reliable source" reported to Metrocurean this week that filming for the popular Bravo reality show was to begin in early April. It is believed the contestants, judges and crew will be staying in Dupont Circle. Followers of the show are familiar with former DC Top Chef contestants, Mike Isabella of Zaytinya and Bryan Voltaggio of Volt (season 6), Carla Hall of Alchemy Caterers and judge of the Embassy Chef Challenge (season 5), and Spike Mendelsohn (season 4) of Good Stuff Eatery. Hopefully this is a rumor that turns out to be true!

    In restaurant news:

    Meet Embassy Chef Martin Johansson from Sweden

    Martin Johansson is a judge for the Embassy Chef Challenge, taking place on March 18th.

    How did you become an Embassy Chef?

    I was on right place at the right time, I was recommended from a famous chef in my hometown Gothenburg.

    Where did you train?

    I went to restaurant school in a small town named Varberg also where I grew up. After that I have been working in many good restaurants in Gothenburg. In 2000 I started working at a top restaurant in Gothenburg, Kungtorget. Five years later, I became the executive chef at Wasa Allé, also in Gothenburg, and helped it become another successful restaurant.

    What is your favorite dish to make?

    I like to cook Swedish food in a Italian way, not overdo it use good ingredients with a small touch. I also love to make beautiful cakes for wedding and other big moments. When I began my career as a chef, I had an interest for desserts and even won the Chocolate Dessert of the Year.

    What is your favorite restaurant in DC?

    I had a really nice dinner at Citizen at Mandarin Oriental Hotel I also love my neighbor 2amys an Italian place in Cleveland park.

    How did you come up with the ingredients for the competition?

    I wanted to use typical Swedish ingredients typical for this season. We also wanted people to recognize it so everyone could have a chance, I think that everyone knows salmon.

    How did you come up with the judging requirements?

    I based the whole competition on the Swedish championship for chefs and tried to make it as professional as I could.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Meet Ana Victoria Mas from Panama

    How did you become an Embassy Chef?

    I was working at Palena, a well known restaurant in the DC area and under Chef Frank Ruta’s direction for a few months, doing my Optional Practical Training (OPT) when I received a call from the Embassy of Panama with an offer to occupy the position of Head of Protocol and Events which included all responsibilities of a professional Chef in addition to the Embassy Protocol, and organization of all the events. I found this offer to be a huge opportunity since I would be able to learn new skills that are an asset to a Chef’s career. On the other hand, I also feel very grateful to be working in a place that gives me the opportunity to learn so much and in addition, to help my country. This is definitely a very challenging job and I am loving it.

    Where did you train?

    I performed a Culinary Arts Major at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. I am currently 21 years old. Before going to culinary school I had some experience working with a Thai inspired restaurant named Twist and at a Catering business called “La Petite Cuisine” both in the Republic of Panama. I later did an internship for six months in the catering department at Dean and Deluca here in Washington D.C. (where I fell in love with the city).

    After my graduation as a Chef, on February 2009, I worked under Chef Ruta at Palena where I feel I learned a great deal and acquired important tools to become a good and strong Chef.

    What is your favorite dish to make?

    Difficult question, I enjoy making many dishes. I would have to say that I really enjoy making plantain gnocchi. I love using plantain in my cooking and getting the perfect texture for the gnocchi is a bit of a challenge, but when I blanch or fry them and their shape and texture turns out exactly as I wanted it to be, it turns out to be very rewarding.

    What was the most difficult part of the March 7th Challenge?

    Definitely not knowing what ingredients I would have to cook with. Usually you have a pretty strong image in your head about the finished dish when you cook, but by not knowing what I would cook with, my mind was a complete blank and that made me a little nervous. Although, I must say, I had a lot of fun in this competition! Now I want to enter every competition I can, because I now realize that I can do a great dish in spite of the pressure.

    Why do you think you made the winning dish?

    I think I made a winning dish because I was meticulous when putting together my dish. I did not put anything on that plate that was “just there”. Every single ingredient that I mixed had a particular purpose and added something valuable to the plate. And this is what I think makes a winning dish. For example, my dish was composed of seven main components: a salmon cheesecake, a sunchoke potato pureé, a cucumber and pea broth, a slightly cured piece of seared salmon, a mussel cooked in cream, pernod, granny apples, dill and heavy cream, a touch of truffle oil and fried fava beans.

    The Swedish cheese in the salmon cheesecake served underneath the sunchoke and potato puree added extra creaminess to the dish. The cucumber and pea broth was cooked with chicken stock and brought freshness and a light feel to the creamy puree, the fattiness of the salmon and the fattiness of the mussel sauce. For an added crunchy texture I fried fava beans. At last, a touch of truffle oil made the entire dish brighten with nutty aromas and made the flavor of the fava beans come alive, even after being fried.

    See, if you just put food on a plate so that it looks nice, or fills the space, you don’t really develop the complexity and profoundness that you can achieve when you meticulously think about each detail of your finished piece of work. I consider this dish was a very strong piece of art I created.

    What is your favorite restaurant in DC?

    Not because I worked there, but Palena is still my favorite restaurant in town. I have been to many restaurants in this city and although the food they offer is great, Palena impresses me the most.

    My favorite dish at Palena is the Consommé. This Consommé is nothing like you have tasted before. I love its scent of juniper berries. I enjoy every sip I take of this mastered clear soup, like tasting a little bit of heaven!

    Don't miss the action on March 18th for the final part of the Embassy Chef Challenge!

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Challenge Sweden presented by Cultural Tourism DC and Safeway

    This past Sunday, March 7th, I attended the Embassy Chef Challenge at Occasions Caterers at 5458 Third Street, NE, in Washington, DC. I witnessed seven competing chefs:

    Chef Jan Van Haute

    Embassy of Belgium

    Chef Viktor Merényi

    Embassy of the Republic of Hungary

    Chef Chang Jae-ok

    Embassy of the Republic of Korea

    Chef Nazha Kasraoui

    Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco

    Chef Francis Otoo

    Embassy of Ghana

    Chef Ana Victoria Mas

    Embassy of the Republic of Panama

    Chef Sunil Kiriwane

    Embassy of the State of Qatar

    Challenge Sweden presented by Safeway was the first part of Cultural Tourism DC’s Embassy Chef Challenge, and it was a head-to-head cooking competition (Top Chef style). Participating embassy chefs prepared a main course dish using salmon and other ingredients provided that day by Safeway. In honor of the hosting country, Sweden, these ingredients were drawn from Swedish cuisine and selected by Chef Martin Johansson. While participation in Challenge Sweden is optional, to win the Embassy Chef Challenge Award, chefs must participate in both competitions.

    JUDGING: Judges will award scores based on 20 points:

        • Flavor and taste
        • Use of ingredients
        • Visual appeal
        • Creativity
        • How chefs work in the kitchen

    The scores from Challenge Sweden will be combined with the scores from the second part of the competition…

    Learn more about each competitor throughout the time leading up to the final challenge on March 18, 2010 by reading the Capital Cooking Show Blog.