Democrat Matt de Ferranti wants to end child hunger in Arlington if he wins a spot on the County Board next week, and he says he can achieve that goal in the next four years.
In debates, campaign mailers, and his official platform, de Ferranti has pledged to ensure that no child in the county goes hungry by the time his first term on the Board would be up in 2022.
It’s a target that some observers think Arlington can meet, but gives others pause. And, crucially, it’s a key area of difference between de Ferranti and the man he’s hoping to unseat: independent John Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999.
Both of the contenders for the lone Board seat on the ballot this fall want to reduce hunger in the county, of course. Yet the pair differs on how to achieve that goal, and how much the Board should prioritize it in the first place, providing a clear contrast between candidates who otherwise broadly agree on many of the pressing issues facing the county.
“The differences between me and my opponent are not always in votes, they’re often in agenda and focus,” de Ferranti told ARLnow. “I think we have to call Arlingtonians to be committed to this equity and be a caring, compassionate community on hunger in ways that we haven’t been called to until this point.”
Vihstadt and de Ferranti agree that the county could use more data on hunger and food insecurity in Arlington, and say they’d support a new study of the matter. The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) teamed up with Virginia Tech to release a paper on the matter back in 2012, and both Board contenders are eager for an update to that document.
Yet the incumbent admits to being a bit puzzled that de Ferranti is bringing up the issue so frequently in the first place, and would much rather wait for more information before acting.
“He is the only one who’s talking about critical gaps in child hunger,” Vihstadt said. “I haven’t heard an explanation of why we’re doing this by 2022 and why we’re only talking about child hunger versus senior hunger. He’s raised a good issue, but I would want to see more analysis on this.”
De Ferranti says he’s so focused on child hunger, specifically, because research links food insecurity to stunted development among children, and suggests that kids learn less if they come to school hungry. But he’s also relying on data from AFAC, the most prominent Arlington nonprofit focusing on hunger, claiming the numbers demand urgent attention to child hunger.
Charlie Meng, the executive director of AFAC, says de Ferranti is right to do so, and notes that he’s raised the issue with the County Board. In data Meng provided to ARLnow, AFAC has indeed seen a steady increase in the number of people requesting meals through the center, and an increase in the number of children served, specifically.
The numbers show that, in fiscal year 2014, AFAC served meals to 3,034 children. That number crept slowly upward over the years, and AFAC served 4,349 children in fiscal year 2018, an increase of about 43.3 percent over those four years.
“The question to the county is always: what’re your priorities?” Meng said. “It’s not always the government’s responsibility, but better support and coordination would go a long way to solving this issue.”
Meng believes that de Ferranti is absolutely correct that the county could effectively cut the number of hungry kids to zero within the next few years, “especially if the coordination and the desire to is there.
On that front, Meng thinks a good place to start would be sending AFAC more money each year.
The county currently allocates about $478,000 annually to help the nonprofit stay afloat, but Meng says AFAC largely depends on private donors to afford its roughly $7.5 million yearly operating budget. For the last two years, the county tacked on an extra $50,000 in one-time funds to send to the center, but the Board declined to do so this year amid a tight budget crunch.
Meng says he hasn’t needed to cut back on any of his programs after losing out on that money, but he has had to work a bit harder to fundraise to make up the difference. He believes that restoring that money, and even sending AFAC a bit more, would make a huge difference in helping the nonprofit identify hungry kids and reach them.
“They give me $478,000, and I give them $7 million in services,” Meng said. “The deal I give these guys is crazy. If you take money away, I can make it up, but it never makes anything easy.”
De Ferranti says he strongly disagreed with the Board’s decision not to send AFAC the additional funding. Even in a challenging budget environment, he argues “we should not be cutting back when the need in terms of the number of families per month has not decreased.”
Vihstadt is sympathetic to Meng’s case, but points out that AFAC already receives more county financial support than most nonprofits in Arlington. Similarly, he said the Board decided not to tack on any more funding in this year’s budget because members trusted in Meng’s fundraising prowess.
“There are nonprofits who are struggling and who do great work: AFAC is not one of them,” Vihstadt said. “I know he used that $50,000 reduction as an opportunity to raise money. I would love to know how much he raised as a result.”
Others working on the issue of child hunger across the state wonder if a focus on services in county schools might be the surer way for Arlington to reach de Ferranti’s goal.
Claire Mansfield, the director of No Kid Hungry Virginia, says her organization largely focuses on making sure schools offer “healthy, nutritious” meals for breakfast and lunch, as that’s generally the easiest way to reach kids who might not know where their next meal is coming from at home.
She’s particularly interested in making sure that schools not only serve a healthy breakfast, but do so as part of the regular school day, which can “remove the stigma” around students looking for a free or reduced price meal.
Mansfield points out that some, but not all of Arlington’s schools offer breakfast in the classroom — Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia says Randolph Elementary, Oakridge and Hoffman-Boston all do so, though Randolph only offers it to preschoolers and kindergarteners.
Mansfield says expanding such programs can have a huge impact, and that Oakridge has already seen a difference since starting breakfast in the classroom. According to her data, only 24 percent of students at the school eligible for free and reduced lunch ate breakfast in the 2014-15 school year; by last year, that number was up to 85 percent.
She added that schools can be key destinations for hungry kids looking to receive meals over the summer. Bellavia said the school system set up nine such “summer meal sites” this year, and Mansfield believes such options are a key way to fill in “gaps” in reaching families in need.
However, she’s a bit more hesitant than Meng to declare that simply following her prescriptions could definitively end child hunger in the county.
“I’m not one to put a timeline on that per se; if I could do it tomorrow I would do it tomorrow,” Mansfield said. “It’s just a case of making a commitment and saying, ‘We know how to solve this and we’re going to do what it takes.'”
Meng says he’s more than willing to do more work with county schools — in fact, one of his priorities is to expand AFAC’s “summer backpack program,” partnering with schools to reach hungry kids when class isn’t in session.
But to do so, he needs more money, and he says that’s where the County Board’s leadership matters on this question.
“We hear all the time, ‘Where are these people who need food?'” Meng said. “All you have to do is look around. Where do you think these people come from who are washing your dishes, doing your laundry, getting paid $7.25 an hour? We have them in this community. But we may not very long.”
Photo via @NottinghamSCA
Flash Flood Watch Issued for Arlington — Arlington, D.C. and points west are under a Flash Flood Watch today, starting at 10 a.m., as the remnants of Hurricane Florence drop heavy rain on the area. [Twitter]
New Food Distribution Site in Ballston — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) has joined with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to open a new food-distribution site at The Springs, an apartment complex in the Ballston area. The site will distribute food on Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and will serve eligible residents from the apartment as well as neighboring APAH communities.” [InsideNova]
Rosslyn Fire Station Leveled — Rosslyn’s Fire Station 10 has been demolished as construction proceeds on a new fire station on the ground floor of a new development. [Twitter]
‘Coffee With a Cop’ Planned — “Wednesday, October 3 is National Coffee with a Cop Day and the Arlington County Police Department is hosting two events with our Community Outreach Teams to celebrate. Community members are invited to join police at this informal event to ask questions, voice concerns, get to know their neighbors, interact with the Community Outreach Teams and meet officers from other sections of the department.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Memorial Bridge Closure Delayed — “Work on Arlington Memorial Bridge was scheduled to close all lanes this weekend, but with the expected arrival of Hurricane Florence, the National Park Service announced that the closure has been pushed back. Now, instead of Friday, the temporary closure of both sidewalks and all six lanes on the crumbling bridge is planned for 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 through 5 a.m. on Sept. 24.” [WTOP]
Economist Food Truck Comes to Rosslyn — Today The Economist is scheduled to bring its food truck to Central Place Plaza in Rosslyn from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The truck offers “a taste of the future,” including free meatless burgers. Also offered: a 12-issue subscription to the magazine for $12. [Rosslyn]
Bezos and Amazon Board in Town — Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the Board of Directors of his $1 trillion company are in town for meetings and a much-anticipated speech at the Economic Club of Washington Thursday night. Some speculate the board is helping to evaluate the D.C. area as a possible location for Amazon’s second headquarters, while the company has denied rumors that Bezos will be making an HQ2-related announcement during his speech. [Washington Post]
AFAC Asks For More Cash — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) has announced a special appeal to its donors, volunteers and the public to raise $50,000 to offset the funds lost when the Arlington government reduced its support… In fiscal years 2017 and 2018, the county government provided $50,000 in addition to the base grant of $477,925 to address a spike in families needing food assistance. The additional funding was not included in the fiscal 2019 budget.” [InsideNova]
Iota Book in the Works — The co-owner of the late, lamented Iota Club is trying to raise money online to compile a book showcasing memorabilia from the former Clarendon music venue. More than $1,000 of a $90,000 goal has been raised so far. [GoFundMe]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Social Media Threats Against Arlington Schools — “There is an increased police presence at a middle school and high school in Arlington Friday after authorities say they were the targets of social media threats Thursday night. Arlington County Police say ‘threats of violence’ were made to Williamsburg Middle School and Yorktown High School… police have identified a person in connection with the incident.” [WJLA, Twitter]
Cannonball Found Near the Run — “A remnant of the most turbulent period in Arlington’s history was unearthed during the recent renovation of the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s warehouse space in the Four Mile Run corridor. A 24-pound spherical shell was found during the construction period.” [InsideNova]
Snow Showers Dust Area — Winter is not over yet. A brief period of snow showers left some white patches on lawns this morning. Meanwhile, a potential snowstorm looms for next week. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
Advon Real Estate and Green Drinks Arlington of Falls Church, VA, for the seventh year in a row has organized a benefit to inspire the community to think about local and free-trade artists while bringing awareness to a wonderful cause, the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Gathering together local and free-trade artisans as well as makers and crafters for an evening to benefit the wonderful non-profit, AFAC, Advon Real Estate is hosting the 7th Annual Heart+Pints Bazaar on Thursday, March 23rd from 5pm-9pm.
This fantastic opportunity for our local artists to showcase their talents and contributions to sustainable efforts while being able to give back to the community — hence the donation to AFAC and an otherwise free event for the community is what the 7th Annual Heart+Pints Bazaar is all about. With such a successful event in the years past, we have added more local artisans and hope to arouse the senses with food, fun and creativity while bringing awareness to the AFAC’s ever present mission of feeding the hungry in our community — which happens to be a good portion of Arlington County residents who need extra help with food not just seasonally, but throughout the year.
The event will be held in the artist inspired Pallette 22 at 4053 Campbell Ave, Arlington, VA 22206 on Thursday, March 23rd from 5pm to 9pm. A non-perishable food item is recommended to gain entrance to the event and will directly benefit AFAC. Pallette 22 is generously donating a portion of the bar to AFAC and holding Happy Hour specials for the duration of this public event. Various local artisans will be proudly displaying their creations which include items ranging from fine art, fused glass, pottery, photography, jewelry to paintings. A silent auction to benefit AFAC will also be held during the event. Please bring cash or checks; as only a few vendors will accept credit cards. Entry can be gained with the suggested donation of a non-perishable food item and all proceeds from the silent auction sales, as well as the non-perishable food items will be donated to AFAC. Last year over 500 lbs of food were donated and $2,500 was raised for the program. Over the last seven years, over $17,000 has been raised across all charities highlighted at this event.
More about Advon Real Estate: Genevieve Concannon founded Advon with a focus on residential re-sale in Northern Virginia because she saw a need for focus. Real Estate agents can not be everything to everyone across all markets, and she also understands what it means to live in an area where the residential housing stock is older. With a hand selected, elite team of agents who understand new construction, sales and marketing and especially urban in-fill and new urbanism, Genevieve found the key to what Northern Virginia real estate needs.
Genevieve is also the co-founder of Green Drinks Arlington, the group who has hosted this event since its inception. As part of the international Green Drinks Organization, Green Drinks Arlington is a social and professional networking group for like-minded individuals who work in an environmentally conscious field. Green Drinks highlights sustainable venues around Arlington and host speakers who feature various discussions in the topics of environmental stewardship, sustainability, health, new policy and the energy efficiency. Genevieve Concannon and Marina Ospina are the founders of this Chapter of Green Drinks and coordinate and host all events at rotating venues around Arlington.
More about AFAC: AFAC is an incorporated 501©(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing supplemental groceries to Arlington residents who cannot afford to purchase sufficient food to meet their basic needs. They are run entirely by a volunteer Board of Directors, a staff of eighteen employees, and more than 400 volunteers from families, businesses and religious organizations. Mission: While their only mission is to feed the hungry, by relieving the food budget of our clients, they help prevent homelessness and allow their clients to make other necessary purchases without sacrificing their health, housing and nutritional needs.
Genevieve Concannon, Founder of Advon Real Estate has hosted this event for the past 7 years as a part of Green Drinks Arlington. She states, “Our neighbors in Arlington have truly come to enjoy the Heart+Pints Bazaar. I started this event out of love for a lost friend, who left the world too soon, and I wanted to spark love for her art and embody what community is about with an event that captures art and community. I think she would be proud.”
This lively, local event enables us to showcase local artisans from the Arlington area while bringing together community in a way that empowers the AFAC organization to gain awareness. Now, over the past seven years we have successfully brought attention to the AFAC organization that is local and a part of the community that we live, work and play in. Heart+Pints was born of a desire to bring about an inspiration in the community that even by doing a small part, we can still try to make a big difference- together. Heart+Pints is a low-key, fun way to give back what AFAC gives out daily; Tammy Bjorge, Sweet Root Village and I hope to accomplish great things again this year.” The 7th Annual Heart+Pints Bazaar will be held Rain or Shine Thursday, 3/23/16 from 5pm-9pm at Pallette 22 in Shirlington. Music, Art, Pints and community coming together all in one place.
In an unprecedented collaboration, 13 real estate firms and RGS Title have joined forces to provide winter essentials for those in need throughout the Arlington community.
The firms are working together as Arlington Realtors Care (ARC) to collect from the public donated food and clothing items. Items are being delivered to the Arlington Food Assistance Center and A-SPAN. The drive is meant to bring aid to those most in need.
Saturday, Dec. 17 is the second community-wide drop off date for members of the public interested in donating outerwear, blankets and food items in support of the drive. For those interested in contributing, the drop-off point is at RGS Title located at 4600 Lee Highway, Suite 110, in Arlington. Collection hours are 10 a.m. through 2 p.m.
A-SPAN’s current needs are coats, winter-wear (gloves, scarfs, beanies, long-johns) and blankets. Items should be new, cleaned or recently laundered.
Food donations are being delivered to The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), a community-based nonprofit that provides supplemental groceries to Arlington residents. AFAC accepts most unopened, unexpired, and unprepared foods, including perishable items. The organization is most in need of low sodium tomato products (diced, paste, & sauce), low sodium canned tuna, low sodium canned soups, low sodium canned beans, low sugar cereal and cooking oil.
The food and clothing drive started on Nov. 1 and continues through Dec. 31.
Participating firms are Advon Real Estate, Buck & Associates, Century 21 New Millennium, Century 21 Redwood Realty, Coldwell Banker, Compass, Keller Williams Metro Center, Long and Foster, Realtors | Christie’s International Real Estate, McEnearney & Associates, TTR | Sotheby’s International Realty, Washington Fine Properties, LLC and Weichert, Realtors. RGS Title is a host of the event.
W-L Student Pens Open Letter on Boundary Changes — The boundary changes approved by the School Board on Dec. 1 will decrease socio-economic diversity at Arlington’s high schools, despite diversity being a stated “core value” at Arlington Public Schools. That’s the argument made by a Washington-Lee student in an open letter to the School Board, published by the Crossed Sabres student newspaper. The article has been widely shared online and, we’re told, has broken traffic records on the newspaper’s website. [Crossed Sabres]
Rollover Crash Last Night — A crash involving an SUV that flipped on its roof was reported near the intersection of Little Falls Road and N. Glebe Road just before 8 p.m. last night. Another crash, involving a person potentially trapped in a vehicle, was reported on Old Dominion Drive just over the border in McLean, around 6 p.m. [Twitter, Twitter]
AFAC Collecting Lots of Donated Food — Holiday-time food collections are bolstering supplies at the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Just yesterday AFAC said it had received around 3,900 lbs of food from property owner Vornado and 1,900 lbs from apartment operator Dittmar. Dittmar says its total holiday food drive goal this year is 5,500 lbs. Other organizations collecting food for AFAC include local real estate agents that have formed a group called Arlington Realtors Care. [Instagram]
More Special Needs Students at APS — The percentage of special needs students at Arlington’s public schools has remained steady, but due to enrollment growth the number of special needs students has increased, presenting budgetary and instructional challenges. [InsideNova]
Cruz and Cornyn’s Queso Comes from Ballston — When Texas Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn needed some authentic Texas-style queso to square off in a taste test against cheese dip from Arkansas, they went to Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant in Ballston. (The restaurant chain is based in Texas.) Unfortunately, the Arkansas cheese won the competition. [Roll Call]
Per Student Spending Questioned — Arlington Public Schools is again being questioned about why it has the highest per-student costs — $18,957 — of any suburban D.C. jurisdiction. Fairfax County, the largest school system in the state, has a per-student cost of $14,432. [InsideNova]
Woman’s Tireless TSA Protest — Alyssa Bermudez, a former Army staff sergeant and Bronze Star recipient, has been tirelessly protesting in front of Transportation Security Administration headquarters in Pentagon City, claiming that she was sexually harassed and fired for complaining about it. Other complaints and a lawsuit point to an alleged culture of harassment within the agency. [Washington Post]
ACPD Officers Meet Shaq — NBA great Shaquille O’Neal visited with D.C. area police yesterday on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while under the influence of drugs. Several ACPD officers were photographed with the 7’1″ O’Neal. [Twitter, Twitter]
LiveSafe Launches Navy Pilot Program — Arlington-based startup LiveSafe has launched a six-month pilot program with a big client: the U.S. Navy. LiveSafe’s app will be used by sailors in Hampton Roads, Va. and in Rota, Spain “in an effort to prevent sexual assaults and combat other destructive behaviors before they happen.” [Stars and Stripes]
Arlington Man Tweets Hillary Sightings — Arlingtonian Adam Parkhomenko, a long-time Hillary Clinton aide and booster, is helping grieving Democrats by turning the former presidential candidate into a “wandering folk hero.” He’s doing so via a social media account that keeps track of photos of Clinton “in the wild” since she lost the election. [Vanity Fair]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Presidential Campaigns in Arlington — What do Ronald Reagan’s 1980 general election campaign, George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, Hillary Clinton’s 2008 primary campaign and John McCain’s 2008 general election campaign have in common? They were all headquartered here in Arlington. Among them, Reagan’s campaign was based in an unassuming office building on Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]
AFAC Reports Record Need — The Arlington Food Assistance Center has had a record 116,000 family visits over the past year and expects weekly family visits to increase to 3,000 next month. [InsideNova]
All About Storm Drains — Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services has answered some frequently asked questions about the county’s more than 10,000 storm drains. [Arlington County]
Power Restored at Market Common — Power is back on at the Market Common Clarendon shopping center, following last Tuesday’s transformer explosion and fire. The electricity is being supplied by mobile generators over the next two weeks, before the shopping center can be reconnected to Dominion’s power grid. [Facebook]
Fire at River Place — A fire broke out in the kitchen of one of the units at the River Place residential complex in Rosslyn Saturday afternoon. The fire charred the walls of the kitchen. Smoke spread to several floors of the building. [Twitter]
Some Inconvenienced By Latest Metro Surge — The second phase of Metro’s maintenance surge is entering its second full week and riders have mostly adjusted to the latest round of station closures and service changes — but some are feeling the effects more than others. The current phase of “SafeTrack” work will run through July 3. [WJLA]
AFAC Seeks Fresh Food Donations — The Arlington Food Assistance Center is asking gardeners to donate fresh produce to help feed families in need in Arlington County. [InsideNova]
Metro Delays This Morning — Metro is experiencing big delays on the Blue and Orange lines after reports that a teenage girl intentionally jumped onto the tracks at the Eastern Market station. The Blue and Orange line is single-tracking between Eastern Market and Federal Center, while the Silver Line is only operating between Wiehle-Reston and Ballston. [Hill Now, Twitter, Twitter]
Gondola Feasibility Study Gets Eight Responses — Eight firms have responded to a Request for Proposals to conduct a feasibility study of a Rosslyn-to-Georgetown gondola system. The team for the study is expected to be chosen in about a month. The study is expected to be complete by the end of the year. [UrbanTurf]
Fire Danger Today — There’s an enhanced threat of brush fires today, even in Arlington. The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the area as low humidity and gusty winds combine for a significant fire danger. “Any fires will have the potential to spread very rapidly,” NWS says. [National Weather Service]
Parking Lots Crowded at DCA — Spring break and the Easter weekend are combining for a busy week and crowded parking lots at Reagan National Airport. As of this morning, the airport’s 2,613-space economy lot is full and there are only a few hundred spaces left in the 5,223-space Terminal B/C garages. [Twitter, Fly Reagan]
AYD Date Auction Next Week — The Arlington Young Democrats will hold their 15th annual charity date auction this coming Tuesday. Eligible bachelors and bachelorettes — along with face time with prominent elected officials — will be auctioned off to benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center. [Arlington Young Dems]
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.
Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.
AFAC Bar Olympics
Spider Kelly’s (3181 Wilson Blvd)
Time: 7-9 p.m.
Join AFAC for a night of fun and fundraising. Two-person teams compete in six bar games in a tournament-style competition. Entry fee is $10 per person ($20 per team). Top five teams qualify for cash prizes or gift cards.
Wine Pairing Dinner*
Osteria da Nino (2900 S. Quincy Street)
Time: 6:30-11 p.m.
Join Nino for a Campania wine pairing dinner at Osteria da Nino in Shirlington. The event will feature five courses and five wines for only $60 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are required.
Feel the Heritage Festival
Drew Community Center (3500 23rd Street S.)
Time: 1-6 p.m.
Celebrate Black History Month at the 24th annual Feel the Heritage Festival. This FREE event features live music and dance, a “Hall of History,” free children’s activities, delicious soul food and a great selection of vendors.
PAL Block Party
Duck Donuts (2511 N. Harrison Street)
Time: 3 p.m.
A bike-centric event in a car-heavy spot. Take a couple seconds from a stressful day and chat with ambassadors from Arlington’s PAL (Predictable, Alert, Lawful) program. There will be chairs, hot cocoa and incense.
And the Winner Is… Oscars Party
Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike)
Time: 7 p.m.
Watch the Oscars broadcast live on the big screen at the D.C. Film Society’s 24th annual party. There will be a predict the winners contest, trivia contests, giveaways and a silent auction. Tickets are $20.
(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) Local chefs walked away with big wins at a charity cooking competition in Clarendon last night.
The Arlington County Fire Department’s finest firehouse cooks faced off against three groups of local professional chefs in a reality TV-style cooking competition where the competitors had 25 minutes to whip up dishes using only ingredients found in the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s pantries.
Judges Scott Brodbeck of ARLnow.com, Becky Krystal of the Washington Post and Chef George Pagonis of Kapnos Taverna sampled each dish before choosing a winner of the round by ringing a large bell, signaling a vote for the firefighters, or putting on a chef’s hat. Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery served as emcee for the night.
At the end of the night, the local chefs walked away from the Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd) with two of the coveted “Golden Eggplant” awards.
Arlington County Fire Department’s Lt. Romulius Queen and firefighter Frank Rachal took home the first “Golden Eggplant” of the night with their Southern Style Fried Chicken topped with a homemade barbecue sauce and accompanied by a zucchini pasta with a thai peanut and ginger sauce. All three judges rang the bell.
“That fried chicken, he really nailed it,” Pagonis said.
Queen and Rachal beat out SER Restaurant chef and co-owner Josu Zubikarai, who made Rulada chicken ragout with mushrooms and spicy vegetables.
It was Queen’s first time competing in AFAC’s Chiefs vs. Chefs event.
“It feels good to go home with a trophy instead of going home crying,” he said.
Chef Tom Madrecki of Chez le Commis took home the second “Eggplant” with his caramelized onion soup with buttermilk, accompanied by homemade bread with butter. He earned the votes of two out of the three judges for his simple but flavorful soup.
Cooking with only the food in AFAC’s pantry was a challenge, Madrecki said.
“It’s reflective of what thousands of Arlington families have to do every day, so it’s very rewarding,” he said.
Facing off against ACFD’s finest brought its own difficulties as the firefighters were both skilled chefs and have a connection to the community, Madrecki said. Votes for the firefighters were applauded by the crowd, whereas votes for the chefs were greeted by good-natured boos.
“We’re the underdogs as the chef because they’re the ones out in the community everyday,” he said. “They’re the ones protecting us so it’s an honor to cook with them.”
Cooking is part of the firehouse lifestyle, said Acting Chief Joesph Reshetar, adding that the firefighters often try out new dishes on their coworkers.
“The firehouse is where they experiment,” he said. “If you can please us, if you can please a group of people, you know you’re on to something.”
Many of the firefighters learn cooking skills from home, including Queen and firefighter Blair Cameron, who made a sausage and tortellini soup for the second round. Some firefighters also work part time in the food industry, Reshetar said.
Despite being the “underdogs,” the chefs walked away with the third “Eggplant.” Brodbeck and Pagonis both seemed to waver before choosing to put a chef’s hat on, while Krystal confidently rang the fire bell.
Chef Jesus Guzman of the U.S. Navy earned the judges’ favor with his “Breakfast in Paradise” dish, containing peanut butter, banana and mint stuffed french toast covered in oatmeal with a sweet potato hash and homemade chicken sausage.
Guzman faced off against firefighters Tony Westfall and Greg Hendershot, who made chicken croquettes. Westfall walked away with a “Golden Eggplant” at last’s year competition, putting him at a slight advantage over Guzman.
“We knew we had a really good challenger,” Guzman said.
The charity event raised about $45,000 in ticket sales and $10,000 in donations throughout the night for AFAC, said Joy Myers, director of development for AFAC. She said the proceeds will feed about 100 families throughout the next year.
Restaurant discovery app Spotluck will be donating $5 to the Arlington Food Assistance Center for every download and signup made with the promo code “AFAC” through tomorrow.
Spotluck is running the promotion in honor of AFAC’s Chiefs vs. Chefs fundraising event Wednesday night, which pits local chefs against Arlington County firefighters to see who can create the most mouth-watering dishes using only ingredients that would be found in AFAC’s pantry.
The “three-course throw-down” kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd). Tickets, which start at $100, are still available online. ARLnow.com’s Scott Brodbeck is a judge for the event, along with the Washington Post’s Becky Krystal and former Top Chef competitor George Pagonis, who’s executive chef at Kapnos Taverna.
Spotluck, which is a D.C. area-based startup and an ARLnow.com advertiser, says it’s proud to be “supporting a great cause with our good friends at AFAC.” In order to ensure the donation is made, users need to download the app, launch it and enter “AFAC” as the promo code on the signup screen.
Spotluck has 23 Arlington restaurants in the app and says it collectively sends those restaurants thousands of diners per month. In addition to helping users to find new restaurants, Spotluck also offers “preferred pricing” to restaurants that the user lands on via a virtual spin of a wheel in the app.
“Spotluck is a mobile app that allows you to discover local restaurants and save money in a fun new way,” says the company’s website. “With a simple spin, Spotluckers earn preferred pricing and forgo the hassle of figuring out where to eat next!”
AFAC serves some 86,000 pounds of food to more than 2,000 Arlington families in need each week.
Three firefighters will see if they can handle the heat in the kitchen as they take on three local chefs in an annual cooking competition and fundraiser in Clarendon.
The Chiefs v. Chefs 4: Too Hot to Handle challenges chefs and firefighters to cook three courses using ingredients found in the Arlington Food Assistance Center’s pantry. The competition will be held from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Clarendon Ballroom (3185 Wilson Blvd) on Oct. 28.
“Pick your favorite team and watch three of the area’s most scintillating chefs go toe-to-toe with three of Arlington’s hottest firehouse cooks in a three-course throw-down! This infamous on-stage battle is on fire as each team tries to impress our panel of judges and set their taste buds ablaze,” AFAC said in a press release.
This year, Chef Josu Zubikarai of SER Restaurant, Chef Tom Madrecki of Chez le Commis and Chef Jesus Guzman from the U.S. Navy will take on three different firefighters. The competitors will battle to impress judges Chef George Pagonis of Kapnos Taverna, Becky Krystal from the Washington Post and Scott Brodbeck of ARLnow.com to win the “Golden Eggplant.”
“This competition is going to be a challenge, but it’s nothing like the one faced every day by hundreds of Arlington residents. It’s on us to raise awareness and help AFAC continue to deliver positive results in our local community. As a chef, what better way to do that than to show the judges how you can transform commonplace ingredients into something interesting, complex and unique,” Madrecki said in a statement. “It’s going to be an uphill battle against the chiefs, but no matter the results, the real winner will be Arlington families who need greater access to nutritious food.”
Tickets for the competition start at $100, with a package of two tickets selling for $175. Proceeds will go to helping AFAC feed Arlington families.