Home Culture Culture DC’s annual Embassy Chef Challenge is back bigger and better

DC’s annual Embassy Chef Challenge is back bigger and better

DC’s annual Embassy Chef Challenge is back bigger and better
Winners of the 2022 Embassy Chef Challenge: Erwin Villarias, Muhammad Asghar, Nycci Nellis, Maliha Shahid and Boris Ghazarian. Photo by Patricia McDougall.

More than a thousand people swarmed the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Oct. 13 to be rewarded with a culinary global journey, tasting food from around the world prepared by those who cook for Washington’s diplomatic corps.

After a pandemic-enforced hiatus, the Embassy Chef Challenge was back with its largest showing ever, organizers said. The long-awaited event sold out in just a week after ticket sales opened. 

“This year’s challenge was bigger and better than ever before,” said Events DC Chief Creative Officer Jinhee Kim, who organized the event. “It was great to see so many embassies turn out with such pride for their native cuisine and culture after a few years away. Here’s to many more years of friendly and delicious competition.”

More than 40 embassies participated, but not all could win the challenge. Three remained standing after judges chose their favorite dishes cooked up that night. 

The Embassy Chef Challenge was held on Oct. 13 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photo by Patricia McDougall.

Chef Erwin Villarias of the Embassy of the Philippines took home first place with chicken inasal and majin ube, while second place went to Chef Muhammad Asghar and cultural attaché Maliha Shahid from the Embassy of Pakistan for their chicken tikka and gulab jamun. 

However, it was Chef Boris Ghazarian who won the People’s Choice award, giving the representative from the Embassy of Armenia third place for his seasoned lamb and vegetables over rice, pomegranate sorbet and labneh ice cream with saffron.

Also awarded was best beverage, given to Mixologist AJ Johnson of the Dominican Republic, who “shook up” the competition with a cocktail featuring Brugal Extra Viejo, Chinola liqueur, sherry, orange, mint syrup and cinnamon.

Held for the first time at the Smithsonian, the event was part of the 2022 Events DC International City Food Festival, organized to celebrate Washington’s international community through food, culture and entertainment. 


Article contributed by Carmen Russell

Photos by Patricia McDougall


Angelique Gingras

Angelique Gingras is an undergraduate at the University of Maryland where she studies Journalism and British History. Angel started at The Washington Diplomat as an editorial intern in August 2021 and was promoted to Associate Editor in March 2023.