D.C. foodies feast on late-night bites at inaugural Chefs Ball

Forget about those inauguration weekend parties where President Obama makes an appearance, the Chefs Ball had fried chicken and waffles.

Attendees pounced each time a hot plate of the culinary delight emerged from the kitchen of Art and Soul's Wes Morton on Saturday night.

In their shimmering gowns and black ties, partygoers at the late-night ball scarfed down the sweet deliciousness and, probably, would have missed the president if he had walked through the room.

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Oh wait, was that Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson?

Yes, yes it was.

Two days ahead of Obama's second inauguration, the first family's influence on the city's food evolution of the past few years was clearly felt.

Art Smith, owner of Art and Soul, credits first lady Michelle Obama for taking some of the taboo out of the fresh-food movement by growing her own garden at the White House and prompting people to think more about their food choices and who grows it.

"They really care about health, but most importantly they care about people," Smith told The Hill.

Smith, who knows the first family from Chicago where he also has a restaurant, said his event was about "giving back."

The seven participating chefs are donating proceeds of the evening, which sold out twice, to various charities.

Over the next four years, Smith has an agenda to rival that of a chief executive — he plans to tackle food allergies and diabetes and, maybe, climb a mountain.

This summer, he is planning to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, a testament to his much-improved fitness and weight loss over the past few years.

Meanwhile, Ferguson is in town to celebrate the inauguration of a president whose decision to call for marriage equality far outweighs his food choices.

"I'm extremely satisfied and gratified with what he's done," Ferguson told The Hill.

"To have a sitting president come out for marriage equality is huge … if there had been a president when I was young who said they were for marriage equality that would've meant the world to me.

"I'm sad that it didn't, but I'm also so happy for the kids it's happening for now."

While Washington’s restaurant scene has made strides during the past four years, the chefs say the start of Obama's second term is just the beginning.

Chef Erik Bruner-Yang of the wildly popular Toki Underground told The Hill that the city’s restaurant scene has "changed tremendously" during Obama's first term and there is plenty more to come.

"It's wonderful to see D.C. become a city," said the 28-year-old who grew up in the Washington suburbs and produced a coconut fish curry with banana leaves that had plenty of people coming back for more.

Other notables — Gayle King, co-anchor of “CBS This Morning” who also is Oprah Winfrey's best friend. 

Smith, who is a familiar face from Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" where his weight loss was first noticed on a national stage, spent several years as Winfrey's personal chef.

Also in attendance was Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who has been working with Ferguson on the state's marriage equality act.

With drinks flowing and music playing, from Ben Taylor — yes, he's the son of James — followed by a string quartet that got in a little Coldplay, the crowd of about 500 seemed blissfully happy sampling brisket, wontons, lamb and crab served up by the many chefs, the Source's Scott Drewno, Equinox's Todd Gray, Mike Isabella of Graffiato, Kapnos, G and Bandolero and Rock Harper of D.C. Central Kitchen.

The chefs might like a party just as much as the rest of us — they mingled with the crowds and seemed to vibrate with that unique electricity that accompanies any presidential inauguration.