The Beltway of Giving:

Eating for a Cause

Student Grill Off Competition Winners
Student Grill Off Competition Winners

The perfect pairing goes beyond bites and sips as food and wine festivals spring to life throughout the summer, many of them with a purpose of not only nourishing your palette, but also feeding the community. Add to the recipe a dash of music and a charitable endeavor and you have a dish that just might overwhelm the senses.

Celebrity chefs like Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali have all sharpened their knives for a cause and spearheaded their own philanthropic endeavors from pediatric AIDS to anti-hunger initiatives. DC's own Spike Mendelsohn is joining their ranks, as he hosts "Sound Bites" on May 20th for DC Central Kitchen (DCCK). For more than 23 years DCCK has whipped up meals feeding underprivileged populations across the city, all with the purpose of using food as a tool for empowerment. DC chefs have engaged by mentoring DCCK students, inviting them for internships in their kitchens and judging student cook-offs.

Mendelsohn, along with 9:30 Club, the Thievery Corporation's Eric Hilton, Brightest Young Things, and 15 noted D.C. restaurants have come together to raise awareness and funds for DCCK. The event mixes charity, food and music with DJ sets by Will Eastman and performances by Bones Fur Feather, The Archives and Nappy Riddem. Participating restaurants include BONMI, Borinquen, Cork, Della’s, Dolce Gelati, Harry’s Smokehouse, Indique, Jackie’s, Mie N Yu, Pepe Food Truck by Jose Andres, Policy, Rappahannock Oysters, Room 11, Shake Shack and Taylor Gourmet. Also part of the festivities is a cocktail competition with DC's spiciest mixologists from Oyamel, the Passenger, Fujimar and The Gibson.

We are uniquely positioned to take further advantage of the relationships built within the restaurant and hospitality industry through these events, says Paul Day of DCCK. Sound Bites taps into a younger audience with its festival atmosphere, the 9:30 club, and hip beats from local bands.

The event is designed to raise funds for the eight programs housed at DCCK, including the Culinary Job Training program that utilizes experienced local chefs to mentor students and guide them towards their culinary futures. DCCK identifies 25 students each semester to participate in 16-week-long culinary immersion courses. Their mission is to prepare unemployed, underemployed, formerly incarcerated persons, and homeless adults for careers in the foodservice industry.” Careers that can land them a position in restaurants such as the ones that have joined forces for Sound Bites. In fact, 90 percent of graduates obtain jobs after graduation and today they serve in reputable places like the Gaylord National Resort and Smithsonian Institution.

Day said that "Events like Sound Bites help us build relationships in the culinary world and find internships, employment and additional training experiences for our Culinary Job Training program students." In 2011, 78 percent of graduates from the program were formerly incarcerated and nearly 70 percent had struggled with addiction. DCCK goes beyond the traditional roles associated with anti-hunger programs. They train low-income and disadvantaged populations to become productive members of the community.

Tickets for Sound Bites are $40 and are available at or the 9:30 Club and Merriweather Post Pavilion box offices. For more information, visit

Upcoming Food and Wine Festivals for a Cause * DC101 Chili Cook-Off May 21st at the RFK Stadium benefiting the National Kidney Foundation's programs.

  • The 19th Annual Taste of Georgetown takes place June 2nd benefitting the Georgetown Ministry Center's services supporting the homeless.

  • National Association for the Specialty Food Trade Summer Fancy Food Show on June 17th to 19th with more than 2,400 exhibitors from around the world, presenting more than 180,000 specialty foods. Last year, exhibitors donated 100,000 pounds of specialty foods and beverages - enough to fill eight tractor trailers - to the DC Central Kitchen.

Jade Floyd is a managing associate at a D.C.-based international public relations firm and has served on the board of directors for the D.C. Arts and Humanities Education Collaborative for nearly five years. She is a frequent volunteer and host of fundraising events across the District, supporting arts, animal welfare and education related causes.

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Sun, 28 May 2017 04:35:49 -0400

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