I‘ve spent the last decade building a culinary and lifestyle brand based on food and culture experiences in the U.S. and abroad. Generally speaking, my purpose is to offer a broad perspective on how we view food, dining, and breaking bread with our friends and family. Specifically, I’ve hoped to offer a more intimate view of the impact food has on our daily lives but also on how we interact and share common threads with people and cultures whose affordability or limited resources are pointedly different than ours. I grew up in a home where food was revered and respected. I was reprimanded for not eating everything on my plate. I remember a visit to Monaco in 2009 when my host gently clued me to the public perception that taking leftovers home from a restaurant was that I was in need, somehow implying that I was ‘poor.’ I was dumbfounded. How could wasting comida be okay? Wasn’t that the implication? I considered my environment and passively conceded that Monaco and Cuba’s socio-political-economical existence were and remain palpably different. It was almost that simple.
I worked with Share our Strength from 2009-2012 as a volunteer chef for their Cooking Matters campaign and just loved how my role inspired and empowered low-income women and men to view food in a positively different way; namely, that $20 had the elasticity of raw honey and not the bounce rate of a clickbait piece on the best cheese-smothered fried chicken wings.
When No Kid Hungry’s Social Council media director reached out last year and invited me to join the select group of passionate influencers, I was elated. NKH’s mission since their launch in 2010 has been to end child hunger in the U.S. through strong advocacy and ground programming that ensures American children have food to eat every day, no matter their education or income level. It was a seamless partnership I couldn’t wait to jump into.
Lunch with Debbie Shore, co-founder of Share Our Strength, turned into a more personal conversation about my connection and interest in her well-founded cause. And that led to other opportunities to use my platform to spread their messaging and actively engage myself and peers in advocacy on their behalf. To start, I’m happy to be a host committee member for the Taste of Nation fundraiser events.
(Scroll through: Imitation classroom; Oswaldo & me having fun with Debbie; Macarons from The Sweet Lobby; Oswaldo for NKH; Macarons from Olivia)
Of the many fundraisers No Kid Hungry is known for, Taste of the Nation is their annual highlight. It’s a robust evening in different cities where local chefs, restaurants and culinary brands converge in a sexy venue and spread cheer and awareness through delicious noshings, eclectic cocktails, good music and conscious people.
(Clockwise: Chef from Espita Mezcaleria; Georgetown Cupcakes; Signage; The hungry toss; Chef cycle husband and wife team)
Taste of D.C. happened just two weeks ago at Nationals Park where over 200 popular restaurants, bakeries, vineyards, and distilleries dished out some of their best from their menus to over 800 DMVers. From over-the-top and messy Smash Burgers to delicate macarons from Olivia — a bakery I regretfully keep overlooking — to strong spirits concoctions, the Park was full of hungry supporters who had one goal in mind: to raise money for No Kid Hungry.
It was my first Taste event so I was in for a blind experience. Between the silent auction play area, which raised $20k, and the VIP cabanas occupied by some fancy folks, the festively-lit night was a non-stop bar hop of flavorful explosions. I found myself distracted and kind of singularly focused on the Virginia wine tents and macaron stations. I’ve said before… life really could be perfect with a beautiful and bottomless glass of sparking rosé and really pretty macarons. I really don’t require much. That said, most of the food I had was excellent, spearheaded by Del Campo‘s empanadas. Ironically, I’ve been invited to eat at Del Campo for two years now, courtesy of the chef/owner’s father — a great family friend and my hairstylist — much to my inexplicable reluctance. I suppose that makes these Taste of the Nation events idyllic for reastaurants whose marketing efforts are limited to Instagram. I took notes of at least 6 spots I need to visit this spring and summer:
Espita, a new mezcaleria tops the list.
Buttercream Bakery will be a corniess mess of a visit.
(L-R: Share our Strength co-founder, Debbie Shore; NKH Executive VIP cabana suite; Supporter making custom Scotch cocktails)
CITI and a few other major brands are big sponsors of Taste events so it goes without saying the VIP CITI lounge was on fire; literally and figuratively speaking. If you can swing it, upgrade your ticket and go VIP. For $500 (could be more or less depending on your city), the lounge is definitely for the Who’s Who with its hydrangea-laced and periwinkle-coloured ambiance. You can even drink your face. Yes. Drink your face. After you’ve taken silly or seductive pictures in their photo booth… wait a few minutes and have a pretty server bring you a bourbon or Tito’s Vodka drink bearing your face.
We did that.
Bites and drink heaven aside, a quick speech by Debbie, vintage tunes by a solid DJ, a live band, swag bags and a clear shot of the Nat’s baseball field made the night a really special one that yielded over $60k in ticket sales and the introduction Chef Cycle, a new fundraising campaign targeted at avid cyclists in the restaurant industry. You know I am all over that.
(Clockwise: Ricotta agnolotti from RPM Italian; CITI VIP lounge; Sushi donut holes; Personalized cocktails)
(Nats park; Bocarones from La Cuchara; VIP supporters and friends we bumped into)
(Olivia Macarons; Vinoteca vine options; Tuna sushi nachos; Supports posing)
(My friend Oswaldo and moi)
(Clockwise: Silent auction park; Smash Burger; Judah & the Lion band; Friendly ballpark server)
We left the Nats park with satisfied bellies and full hearts knowing we showed up and out for a great cause. A festive night for Washingtonians means overtime pay for ballpark employees and restaurant staff but more importantly, it provides nearly $100,000 in funding for programs, education and resources for our nation’s most vulnerable citizens. If our children aren’t healthy, where is our country in our humanitarian leadership? Really?
If you’re looking for a cause and charity to be involved with, please consider No Kid Hungry. I’m a humble ambassador and spokesperson for the kids and happy to be sharing with you throughout this year and many to come, the love the organization has for championing children’s rights and ensuring their lives are rightfully successful. It starts with a properly fueled brain. And education.
To learn more about No Kid Hungry and the Taste of the Nation events in your city, visit them here. Follow the conversation on social with the hashtag #NoKidHungry and my personal shares on Twitter and Insta using #BrenFeedsPasssion.
Disclosure: I am not a paid Social Counsil member and ambassador for Share our Strength, No Kid Hungry and any of their campaigns. Most images used c/o No Kid Hungry. All others taken on my iPhone.