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Chefs hail first foodies with inauguration salute

BY BRETT ZONGKER, ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON -- Some of Washington's top chefs came together to salute the president ahead of the inauguration, in part because of the first family's influence on the culture around food.

Chicago-based Chef Art Smith opened his Capitol Hill restaurant Art and Soul for a late-night Chefs Ball expected to attract food fans of all stripes Saturday night with its relatively low ticket price of $75. Seven celebrity chefs teamed up for the charity event to prepare delicious bites for a sold-out crowd of more than 500.

From the White House garden to Michelle Obama's focus on healthy eating, Smith said the Obamas, more than any other first family, have embraced fresh American food and care about where food comes from.

"Can that little garden at the White House feed America? No. But you know what it can do? It can inspire America," Smith said. "Most importantly, it's that we as Americans all deserve good food, regardless of economic, social differences."

Smith was Oprah Winfrey's personal chef for years and competed on TV's "Top Chef Masters."

For his first inaugural ball, Smith cooked his trademark fried chicken. There would probably be a riot if he didn't, he said.

Guests included "Modern Family" actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Gayle King, co-anchor of "CBS This Morning" and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. The wait staff wore white bow ties from Ferguson's organization TieTheKnot.org to promote gay marriage rights in Illinois and across the country.

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