“There is no work more important than that of compassion and justice,” says Victor Albisu, chef and owner of DC’s Taco Bamba and Poca Madre, who will be supporting this year’s Rock the Block fundraising event, which benefits the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
On Nov. 7, 12 participating restaurants in Old Town Alexandria will welcome an estimated 800 to 1,000 guests who will make their rounds for a night of food and drinks, all while supporting the child-focused organization that has called the city home for 20 years.
According to Brian MacNair, the executive director of development for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Rock the Block’s second time around is going to be bigger and better than before, but it’s all about getting more people involved and allowing the organization to have a local, grassroots-based presence in Alexandria.
“In Old Town in particular, there’s a very strong community feel,” says MacNair, who started the event in 2018 after years of work with José Andrés and World Central Kitchen. Although, he says, the organization has influence throughout the country, the organization wants people to know that they’re here in the DMV, right in their backyard.
“We’re celebrating 35 years this year,” MacNair says. “And we want people to feel connected to us here. So, we’re giving them an opportunity to travel through the streets of Alexandria with like-minded people and friends, who are all supporting and enjoying the same things.”
Through his previous organization’s philanthropic efforts, MacNair was able to see the way food can bring people together and be a force for good, and has since succeeded in bringing that perspective back to the nation’s capital with Rock the Block in 2018. The inaugural event gathered nearly 750 people at several restaurants throughout the community and raised an undisclosed amount through sponsorships and ticket revenue.
This year, MacNair says the organization is on track to raise funds into six figures, but the organization’s monetary goal has not been revealed. But why does MacNair believe this event will continue to be successful in the area? Is it that Alexandrians and DMV residents love food?
The area offers the perfect walking distance and enjoyable experience for an event that allows attendees to take a map and graze their way through some of the city’s best-known restaurants, according to MacNair.
“Plus, it works well in the DMV area because there are a lot of great chefs and there’s a lot of great food,” he says.
The 12 participating restaurants for 2019 include Augie’s Mussel House, The Majestic, Vermilion, Whiskey & Oyster, Columbia Firehouse, Joe Theismann’s Restaurant and Bar, Mia’s Italian Kitchen, Pizzeria Paradiso, Tequila & Taco and a culinary pop-up at the Charles Schwab headquarters with Sweet Fire Donna’s Barbecue and Alexandria newcomer Lost Boy Cider.
Each location has agreed to close their doors to the public for the evening in order to welcome rotating event guests, who will all get exclusive access to five to six small dishes and three to four drinks at each location throughout the night.
MacNair called on his friends Victor Albisu and Spike Mendelsohn, both local celebrity chefs and restaurant owners, to show their support by attending the VIP opening reception. Both agreed that if they were asked to participate in an event like this more often, especially in the DC area, they would jump at the chance.
“[Food] is a communicator, and for me, that’s why I think it’s uniquely positioned to have effective change in the world in so many different ways,” says Mendelsohn, DC-based chef and owner of Good Stuff Eatery, Santa Rosa Taqueria and We, The Pizza. “And for this event, there will be a great group of diverse chefs that will be supporting the cause and it’ll hopefully be the start of something new and awesome for all of us.”
As eager as Albisu is to support the local participating chefs and celebrate local cuisine, he is even more excited to see the community to come together for a second time in honor of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
“We all care about children, safety and the trajectory of kids’ lives,” Albisu says. “And I’m really proud to participate in the smallest way possible to show that I can be an advocate for children and families who need to know they there are people out there that can and will support them.”
Interested in attending? Here’s how it works: purchase your ticket online, choose a starting restaurant and arrive to receive your wristband and map. VIP wristband holders will have access to the opening and late-night receptions.
All guests have free reign to visit each participating restaurant at their leisure, no cash required or lengthy waiting times at each location. Just show up with your wristband, grab a seat and enjoy. // At participating restaurants in Alexandria; Nov. 7, 5-10 p.m.; $125-$300
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