Chefs hail first foodies with inauguration salute
FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2011, file photo, celebrity chef Art Smith discusses a healthy journey to wellness during an interview with The Associated Press in Miami Beach, Fla., at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. Smith served as Oprah Winfrey's personal chef and a Top Chef contestant. Smith is one of 6 chefs hosting the first Chef's Ball on Jan. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter, File)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Some of Washington's top chefs came together to salute the president ahead of the inauguration, in part because of the first family's influence on the culture around food.
Chicago-based Chef Art Smith opened his Capitol Hill restaurant Art and Soul for a late-night Chefs Ball expected to attract food fans of all stripes Saturday night with its relatively low ticket price of $75. Seven celebrity chefs teamed up for the charity event to prepare delicious bites for a sold-out crowd of more than 500.
From the White House garden to Michelle Obama's focus on healthy eating, Smith said the Obamas, more than any other first family, have embraced fresh American food and care about where food comes from.
"Can that little garden at the White House feed America? No. But you know what it can do? It can inspire America," Smith said. "Most importantly, it's that we as Americans all deserve good food, regardless of economic, social differences."
Smith was Oprah Winfrey's personal chef for years and competed on TV's "Top Chef Masters."
For his first inaugural ball, Smith cooked his trademark fried chicken. There would probably be a riot if he didn't, he said.
Guests included "Modern Family" actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Gayle King, co-anchor of "CBS This Morning" and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The wait staff wore white bow ties from Ferguson's organization TieTheKnot.org to promote gay marriage rights in Illinois and across the country.
FILE - This May 1, 2011 file photo shows Duff Goldman, the cake master behind Food Network's reality show “Ace of Cakes,” speaking in Los Angeles. Goldman is making the cake for President Barack Obama’s Commander-in-Chief’s Ball. Goldman’s Charm City Cakes bakery said Saturday that it will bake a cake for the ball, one of two official inaugural balls the president will attend. (AP Photo/Katy Winn, File)
Chefs served up tiny lamb gyros, crab salad on a cornbread cracker and fried chicken and waffles on a stick, among other bites. The bar offered cocktails called "Stayin Put" and "Stickin Around."
Smith was joined by Washington restaurateurs Erik Bruner-Yang of Toki Underground, Scott Drewno of The Source, Todd Gray of Equinox Restaurant, Rock Harper of TV's "Hell's Kitchen" who helps lead the charity D.C. Central Kitchen and Mike Isabella, a "Top Chef All-Stars" finalist whose restaurants include Graffiato and Bandolero.
Isabella said he was new to Washington four years ago and that the city's food scene has come of age in the Obama era. He plans to open another restaurant later this year.