By Lenore T. Adkins,Special to the AFRO
The Events DC Embassy Chef Challenge was a culinary smack down for the ages, netting several winners from the Caribbean and Africa who displayed their vision of culinary diplomacy to more than 1,200 guests.
Embassy chefs were vying to win the celebrated People’s Choice and Judges Choice awards at the 10th anniversary contest on May 17 – judges hailed from diplomatic, culinary, cultural, and media circles.
Chef Francis Otoo from the Embassy of Ghana won the second place People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice awards for his Lamb Jollof Rice. Meanwhile, Chef Jouvens Jean from the Embassy of the Republic of Haiti scored third place in the Judge’s Choice category for his Kabrit (goat) Kreyol served with Haitian cinnamon water.
Africa and the Caribbean cleaned up in the 10th anniversary contest’s two new categories too. The Best Dressed Embassy Award went to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Morocco.
The Best Beverage Award went to the Embassy of Barbados’ Chef Craig Greenidge and Mixologist Philip Antoine for their Drunken Bajan Lemonade. The sparkly purple lemonade, glows in the light and was incredibly popular, with people spending more than 20 minutes in line to try the drink. That prompted one guest to wonder if Rihanna was in the building (she wasn’t). Antoine told the AFRO he concocted the drink out of rum, butterfly pea flower, fresh mint, all spice, coconut extract and lots of love.
The trophies were shaped like pineapples, the international symbol of hospitality. The event, held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, allowed guests to eat their way through 28 countries, including Jamaica, Cote d’Ivoire, and Ethiopia.
Siyabulela Mandela, 25, a grandson of Nelson Mandela, the first Black president of South Africa, commended organizers for using food and drink to unite people from different cultures. He called the cook-off a nontraditional means for cultural diplomacy.
“Today we can be able to celebrate unity all in the name of cultural diversity,” Mandela told the crowd as he donned Xhosa traditional attire from the one of the largest Black ethnic groups in South Africa. “I thank you, Wakanda forever.”
Mandela is spending four months as a visiting scholar at George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, where he’s working on his doctorate in preventative diplomacy and the causes that give rise to violent conflicts. Like his late grandfather, the younger Mandela envisions an Africa at peace with itself. So, he’s educating himself to build on his grandfather’s legacy and will “probably fulfill his vision for Africa.” Mandela is also a professor for peace, security, and reconstruction and a doctoral candidate at Nelson Mandela University in South Africa.
After stuffing their faces with international food and drinks, about two dozen people kept the party going at an after party. The soundtrack was extensive and included songs from Jay-Z, Rihanna, Shaggy and late Cuban salsa queen Celia Cruz.