Heard on the Hill

No Trump, no gluten, no problem at White House Correspondents’ Dinner

You say tomato, we say EpiPen: Celebrated chef preps for all eventualities ahead of nerd prom

Washington Hilton Executive Chef Andre Cote prepares for the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. (Nathan OuelletteCQ Roll Call)

Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan — these are just some of the restrictions Washington Hilton executive chef Andre Cote has to plan for ahead of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Ever heard of a nightshade allergy? Chef Andre has, and so have the countless tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes that have gone un-enjoyed thanks to someone’s sensitivity.

The aversion is unfortunate news for the 6,000 red and yellow pear tomatoes ordered ahead of this year’s dinner, but luckily, the team in place at the Washington Hilton has already taken your allergies and intolerances into consideration long before you have the chance to send back your plate.

“We know about 50 percent of them” ahead of time when guests RSVP, says the executive chef.

On Saturday night, Chef Andre and around 400 assistants will serve up 200 variants of each salad, entrée and dessert for guests who have declared an allergy well in advance and for those who, you know, prefer to surprise him at the last minute.

Feeding the nerds: Where does the WHCD food come from?

But dinner prep begins way before the exclusive invitees mark “attending.” Planning starts the previous year, as soon as guests lift the last forkfuls to their mouths. And while serving 2,800 hungry humans is no small feat, Chef Andre and his team don’t do it alone.

According to the decorated chef, roughly eight to ten vendors contribute to every plate. Keany Produce in Landover, Maryland, is one of them.

From cucumbers to diced onions, to mint and parsley, Keany Produce ensures that the Hilton has their goods double-checked and triple-washed down to the very last ounce. Those 6,000 red and yellow pear tomatoes? Also Keany.

The produce company will play no small part again this year, furnishing the tomatoes, cucumbers and onions featured alongside a New Zealand lamb and an Israeli couscous salad dressed in a homemade honey yogurt and dill vinaigrette. And for those with a yogurt allergy, Chef Andre has an herb vinaigrette at the ready.

As for us, we won’t fall victim to any food allergies, but depending on how long it takes to serve dinner, we might feel the effects of hanger.

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