by Mary Beth Ray
Celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn likes to use locally-raised food at his DC-area restaurants. You don’t get much more local than this.
To the delight of his hungry audience on Thursday, September 15th, Mendelsohn prepared fresh ingredients from UDC’s rooftop garden, including peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, herbs and garlic.
Mendelsohn is perhaps best known as a contestant on TV’s “Top Chef.” He is the chef-owner of three restaurants: Good Stuff Eatery, We, The Pizza, and Bearnaise.
This event celebrated the opening of UDC’s new teaching kitchen and DC’s Creative Economy Month. It was co-hosted by UDC’s CAUSES program (College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences led by Dr. Sabine O’Hara) and Mayor Bowser’s Creative Economy team, represented by Mary Ann Lombardi.
Mendelsohn roasted peppers and chopped hibiscus greens while he spoke to the audience of mostly UDC students about his new role as chairman of the DC Food Policy Council. The council focuses on ways to bridge the gap in fresh, wholesome food and nutrition, across neighborhoods and income groups. Urban farming, sustainable agriculture, the local food economy and jobs, and bringing good food and education to food deserts are all goals of his committee, which focuses on public policy and legislation.
Students asked a range of questions, from entrepreneurship advice, to kitchen architecture.
“How do you keep people coming to your restaurants?” one student asked.
He said it’s all about good food and great service.
“If you ate the chili tonight, and then you ate the pizza, that’s the answer!” Mendelsohn said. A visit from the President and First Lady doesn’t hurt either – his Good Stuff Eatery features the Prez Obama Burger and the Michelle Melt!
Not only did Mendelsohn give an excellent talk on his passion for food policy, and the creative economy, he prepared a delicious meal, and he declared that he would love to open a restaurant in Van Ness, maybe even at UDC.
The UDC Student Center has empty retail space, and rumor has it they are looking for a restaurant tenant that would satisfy the tastes and budgets of students, area office employees and neighborhood residents. With fresh ingredients from UDC’s roof garden and Van Ness workers and residents clamoring for a fast-casual family-friendly restaurant with local roots, this could be a marriage made in food heaven.