Top Chefs

March 24, 2011

José Andrés, Todd Gray, Spike Mendelsohn and Nora Pouillon to speak at GW March 29.

Some of D.C.’s biggest names in food will be sharing a table at GW next Tuesday.

Chefs José Andrés, Todd Gray, Spike Mendelsohn and Nora Pouillon will gather at the Jack Morton Auditorium to talk about healthy eating, from planning menus to sourcing food and satisfying customers.

Spanish native Mr. Andrés founded and co-owns some of D.C.’s most celebrated restaurants, including Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel and Café Atlantico.

Mr. Gray, co-owner of the acclaimed restaurant Equinox, is known for promoting local, seasonal mid-Atlantic foods.

Mr. Mendelsohn, a former Top Chef Chicago contestant, founded the popular Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill.

A longtime champion of natural foods, Ms. Pouillon opened local Restaurant Nora in 1979 as the nation’s first certified organic restaurant.

The four will come together for “Big Night, Big Jobs: Local Chefs Talk About Their Work Setting America’s Table.” The conversation will be moderated by food writer Jane Black. Audience members will have an opportunity to ask the chefs questions, and there will be a reception afterward.

The chefs have also crafted special recipes, which include watermelon-and-tomato skewers and flank steak wraps and are healthy and easy to prepare, for the GW community.

The event is sponsored by GW’s Urban Food Task Force, a group composed of more than a dozen faculty, students, staff and volunteers who share an interest in all things having to do with food, including healthy eating, sustainable food production and food policy.

“Big Night is like a great recipe,” says Urban Food Task Force member Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History. “It combines so many different ingredients—chefs, writers, professors, policymakers and foodies—while also satisfying the hunger to learn more about the challenges and pleasures of our world.”

Fellow Urban Food Task Force member Diane Knapp says a major issue for chefs today is creating menus that are both healthy and taste good while also keeping an eye on the bottom line.

“In the past people didn't go out to eat as often as today,” she says. “It used to be that it was okay to have a heavy meal because it was a special occasion, but now people eat out three or four times—or more—a week and that can cause a problem.”

Ms. Knapp, a trained nutritionist, says healthy eating and a wide range of topics related to food resonate with students and the GW community.

“Our students are really interested in different issues around food, whether it’s bee keeping, food access, food security or public health,” says Ms. Knapp. “Students are looking for schools that are addressing food issues; they want more courses and involvement.”

The Big Night event will provide these students with a rare window into the kitchens of the area’s top chefs, according to Dr. Joselit.

“I hope the chefs will take us behind-the-scenes of the modern American restaurant to reveal the kind of complex culinary, economic and moral decisions that inform what they serve in the front of the house,” says Dr. Joselit.

Tickets to Big Night, Big Jobs are sold out, but space is available for a live telecast in room B07 of the Media and Public Affairs Building at 7 p.m. on March 29.

Recipes from the chefs of Big Night, Big Jobs

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