Women Chefs & Restaurateurs 2009 National Conference

If you found yourself at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC, over the past few days, you’d find that the usual power suits on display were not pinstripes and wingtips, but chef whites and kitchen clogs. The reason? Women Chefs & Restaurateurs members were in town for the group’s annual national conference.

ICE externship advisor Jessie Craig and I were on hand to represent ICE at this year’s event, whose theme was “The First Ladies of the Table: Connecting Food, Business & Community.”

The opening day kicked off grandly with the Women Who Inspire Gala Awards dinner, which was energetically emceed by the former Top Chef finalist Carla Hall (“Hootie hoo!”). ICE has been a proud sponsor of the Golden Whisk Award for the past several years, and it was a personal honor to present this year’s accolade to DC-based chef Ris Lacoste. An upper echelon of women chefs from around the country executed the evening’s multi-course meal, including Tracy O’Grady, Susan Spicer, Barbara Lynch, Elizabeth Faulker, and many others.


The next two days were filled with informative Master Classes on topics ranging from job hunting in today’s economy to beverage marketing and programming in a digital world to a primer on tea styles, regions and methods of brewing and cooking with tea. (Trivia question: What style of tea is fermented? A. Oolong  B. Green  C. Pu-Erh  D. All of these. See the end of this posting for the correct answer.)

We even managed to bump into a couple of ICE alumni along the way, including Cathy Berg (Culinary ’03), who’s the national manager of curriculum & training for Share Our Strength’s Operation Frontline, a fantastic program that teaches children and their families how to prepare low-cost nutritious meals - a skill they can use for a lifetime.

We did get some free time away from the conference center to get out and experience some of DC’s award-winning dining spots including Equinox (try the Diver Scallops with Golden Lentil Ragout) and Restaurant Eve (don’t miss the Orecchiette with Toasted Garlic and Cauliflower). The conference closed with a fun reception where all of the passed hors d’oeuvres and drinks were favorites of First Ladies. Even Jackie Kennedy made an appearance (courtesy of Madame Tussaud’s)!

If you answered “C” to the question above, you’re correct! Pu-Erh is the only tea that is fermented. It is extraordinarily earthy tasting, hence its common nickname “dirt tea.” Definitely an acquired taste!

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