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Panama, Barbados take the cake in Embassy Chef Challenge

Panama, Barbados take the cake in Embassy Chef Challenge

The name of the Panama’s entry at the 2024 Events DC Embassy Chef Challenge illustrates the diversity and inclusiveness of the isthmus nation, and is as long as the pleasure that must have lingered on the palates of judges at Union Station after they tasted it.

Because after sampling an array of culinary delights prepared by embassy chefs representing more than 20 nations from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America, and presented in sumptuous Union Station, which was made even more sumptuous by the absence of its usual horde of harried commuters, they awarded Panamanian Embassy Chef Jovana Urriola the top prize in the Judge’s Choice category.

Her winning dish at the March 7 event was Panamanian style Afro Caribbean chicken tamale dumplings.

Panamanian Embassy chef Jovana Urriola won the Judges’ Choice category with her Panamanian style Afro Caribbean chicken tamale dumplings.

Chefs Lin Song, Lu Tao, Li XiaoFeng, Jia Wehhni and Zhu Xianglin, representing the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, took second place in the category with Sichuan spicy fish, Kung Pao shrimp balls, Sichuan cold spicy noodles and snowy mooncakes.

And Aris and Raymond Compres of the Embassy of the Dominican Republic came third with traditional Dominican roasted pork with casabe – a kind of flatbread made with cassava flour – and yucca.

In the People’s Choice awards, Damian and Ann-Marie Leach, representing the Embassy of Barbados, took first place with curry lamb and coucou, a Barbadian sticky porridge made with breadfruit.

Second in the category, which the evening’s guests cast votes for using their phones, was Embassy of Saudi Arabia Chef Bandar Alhenaki’s jareesh – a dish made with crushed wheat –; date cake, pistachio cake and truffles.

Chef Wattanaphong Kongwattana of the Thai Embassy came third with beef Massaman curry and pla goong–spicy shrimp salad.

There was also a prize for the best beverage, and this year, it went to Darwin Banegas of the Peruvian Embassy for his version of the Chicha Morada, a drink that has its origins in the Andes region of Peru, where the purple corn that is its essential ingredient comes from.

Chicha Morada may be from the Andes, but it has been adopted by thirsty Peruvians across the country, and, now that it’s won a prize at the Embassy Chef Challenge, it may well become popular in D.C.

Organized by Events DC, the Embassy Chef Challenge is in its 15th year.

It gives D.C. area residents the chance to try international gastronomic delights that are usually only available to ambassadors, diplomatic staff and their guests, and allows chefs who are usually confined to embassy kitchens to showcase their skills to a wide audience and interact with other chefs.

(Photos are by The Washington Diplomat and courtesy of Events DC)


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