This Thursday is the Brainfood Grill-Off, the third annual fundraiser for Brainfood, an organization that teaches life skills to D.C. high school students through cooking. Brainfood has two kitchens, one in Penn Quarter and one in Columbia Heights, where kids take part in after school and summer school classes.
The event, which is on Thursday from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Decatur House on Lafayette Square, 1610 H St., NW, will pair top local chefs with amateur cooks to see who can grill up the best dishes.
Participating chefs are Glenn Babcock, Nage; Anthony Chittum, Vermilion; Daniel Giusti, 1789 Restaurant; Teddy Folkman, Granville Moore’s; Jonathan Krinn, Inox Restaurant; Jon Mathieson, Inox Restaurant; Cedric Maupillier, Central Michel Richard; Bryan Moscatello, Zola and Shannon Overmiller, The Majestic.
I chatted with Folkman recently about his participation in the event, as well as his participation on The Next Food Network Star (which launched on Sunday) and his new role as executive chef at Capitol Lounge.
Folkman says he’s been volunteering for Brainfood for seven or eight years, and he got involved “by default.”
“I was working at the Reef in Adams Morgan and the executive chef had volunteered to teach a class, but he had gotten sick the day before,” he says. “I was the sous chef, so I went and taught the class and had so much fun that I started volunteering regularly. It was by default but I'm so glad I've gotten involved.”
Folkman, who participated in the Grill-Off last year, said that it’s an “Iron Chef-style” competition.
“We’re held in a room and at the last minute we go look at the table of ingredients, where there's everything from salmon to filet to scallops, and it kind of runs the gamut and there's so many cool ingredients,” he says. “Then you cook the dishes. What's supposed to happen is that the chef doesn't do anything but direct the teams and stuff, but sometimes you get involved.”
Folkman says that last year his team whipped up grilled pork chops with mango salsa and grilled potato salad, and the one rule is that everything has to be cooked on the grill.
“You can bring a sauté pan, but you have to use the heat from the grill,” he says. “You can boil a pot of water for lobster, but good luck getting that going in time because it’s going to take forever.”
While the chefs are doing their thing, audience members will be sampling dishes, cocktails and wine. Tickets, which are $75, help fund Brainfood programs. Visit their web site for tickets.
Besides working with Brainfood, Folkman has been busy, and took the helm at Capitol Lounge as executive chef this week.
“We’re going to have two menus, one classical with all the food people come here for and have loved for years, and on the next page will be more upscale pub food, like crispy fried oysters and house made Reubens, but I’ll put a little twist them. It's gourmet bar food.”
He also consulted on the menu at the newly opened H Street Country Club.
“I have a couple more ideas now from talking to contestants [on The Next Food Network Star] and getting their take on cooking,” Folkman says. “Jeff was really big into Spanish ingredients and cuisine, and that, along with working on the H Street Country Club menu, influenced me to put Mexican twist on the menu at Capitol Lounge.”
Photo of 2008 Grill-Off from brain-food.org.