Robert Egger Steps Down from DCCK, Jeff Buben Wins 2012 Capital Food Fight

Another Capital Food Fight came and went last night with chef Jeff Buben of Vidalia winning the competition. But the big news from last night’s event was that Robert Egger, the founder and president of DC Central Kitchen, is stepping down after nearly 25 years of overseeing the organization. The current CEO Mike Curtin will be taking Egger’s place as president.

“Not only am I leaving DC Central Kitchen, but after 40 years, I’m also leaving DC,” said Egger to a packed house at the Ronald Reagan Building. “I’m going back to the town of my roots, to Los Angeles where I’m about to open the L.A. Kitchen.” The new nonprofit on the west coast will not only seek to replicate DCCK’s success in a new city, but will also “pioneer vegetarian and vegan meals for elders in America,” according to Egger.

Egger reflected upon how people thought his idea for taking leftover food from restaurants and grocery stores to feed the homeless in DC would never work, how some even said it was illegal. Yet two decades later, the thriving nonprofit feeds thousands per day, has graduated 90 classes from its culinary job training program and has 33 campus kitchens across the country. “Thank you for helping this young man’s dream become an old man’s reality,” Egger told the crowd. “I’ll tell you, there’s very few men who have had the honor of working with so many great people, in such an amazing city, to leave such an amazing organization at such amazing heights.”

Focusing back on the competition at hand, some of the other highlights of the night included guest judge from Top Chef, Padma Lakshmi allowing a guest to eat a slice of ham off of her neck for $1,000. We were just as weirded out/perplexed by that scenario, but hey, it raises money for a good cause, right? Judge Andrew Zimmern from Bizarre Foods showed the world what squirrel testicles look like with a picture on his phone. And Carla Hall proved once again that if she decides to stop her career as a chef, she could probably be a pretty successful and fast-talking auctioneer.

In the end, chef Jeff Buben beat out his competitors (on his birthday no less!) Enzo Fargione, Guillermo Pernot and Adam Sobel. Secret ingredients in this year’s competition included lobster mushrooms, honey crisp apples and Fermin Iberico ham. In the bonus battle, host Anthony Bourdain went head to head with Andrew Zimmern to see who could make a better dish using the secret ingredient, iguana. Yep, the large reptile.

The 2012 Capital Food Fight raised $600,000 dollars last night, according to an email from DCCK.

Check out the photo slideshow below for more photos from last night’s Food Fight.

Marissa was born and bred in New Jersey, but moved to DC for undergrad at GWU (Go Colonials, go!), fell in love with the District and learned that there was life and civilization beyond New York City. She loves eating at white-tablecloth-three-forks-at-your-place-setting restaurants, but she’ll also be the first to suggest we scarf down some chili dogs at 2 am. Simply put, she loves all things food. You can also read about why she loves DC. Follow her on Twitter and email her at mbialecki (at)

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