Lawmakers chow down in veggie burger contest
© Austin Yack

Chef Todd Gray, owner of Equinox restaurant in Washington, teamed up with vegetarian and vegan lawmakers on Wednesday for the first ever Congressional Veggie Burger Smackdown.

Gray created four special veggie burger sauces to represent each lawmakers' home state and draw attention to non-meat diets.

Attendees chowed down on Gray's "FLOTUS sliders," each drenched with a different special sauce. The first 100 at the event had the chance to vote on which of the four sauces was best.

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The event at the Rayburn building drew a large crowd with Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), and Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard says being Saudi Arabia's 'bitch' is not 'America First' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Gabbard considering 2020 run: report MORE (D-Hawaii) in attendance. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) was represented by a New Jersey-themed sauce but was not in attendance.

“It was great. We picked corn for Arizona. We thought of citrus and carrot for Florida. We thought, of course, Jersey tomato. And Hawaii, I’m thinking what else, Hawaii pineapple, ” said Gray.

In the end, Booker's tomato sauce won over the attendees, with 36 percent of the vote.

“It’s great to have an event like this to help raise awareness and share information with folks about the personal health benefits of a vegetarian or plant-based diet, but also the environmental benefits and impacts on our community, our country, and really our planet,” said Gabbard.

“There are so many misperceptions about a vegetarian diet,” she said. “Things like, you know, you can’t get enough protein, you’re not getting enough iron, it’s not healthy, you’re sickly. And I’ve never had that experience anywhere in my life.”

The nonprofit Physicians Committee and the bipartisan Vegetarian Caucus hosted the event to show people that plant-based foods are tasty and to promote healthy eating.

Some such as Gabbard have been on a plant-based diet their entire life, but others are new to the lifestyle.

“I wasn’t a vegan when I came to Congress. It was a decision I made soon after I got here, and it’s had such a positive impact on my life that I decided to try to help others as well,” said Deutch.

Deutch revealed that even with his cravings — he has a sweet tooth for chocolate chip cookies — “there is a pretty good chance that there is a really good vegan option.”