If access to expedited entry, VIP-only lounges, and small-group interaction with some of DC’s world-renowned chefs is calling your name, we’ve got something for you to chew on.

Purchase your Taste of DC VIP Tastemaker or Tastemaker Plus ticket and experience an exclusive sneak peek of all that MGM National Harbor has to offer.

Sponsored by MGM National Harbor, Taste of DC’s VIP entrance experience and lounge will redefine the VIP treatment at this signature DC event. Get ready to indulge.

Within the MGM National Harbor VIP lounge guests will be introduced to some of the hotel’s acclaimed chefs as they wow the crowd with demonstrations of their world renowned culinary abilities.

Bryan Voltaggio

Bryan Voltaggio is the executive chef and owner of six restaurants including VOLT, Lunchbox, Family Meal, RANGE, and two locations of AGGIO. As a finalist on Top Chef Season 6 and Top Chef Masters Season 5, Voltaggio is the first chef to compete on both Top Chef and Top Chef Masters. The James Beard Foundation Award finalist co-authored the cookbook, VOLT.Ink, with his brother, Michael, and is set to release a new title HOME in 2014. Now brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio are joining forces for the first time with their contemporary steakhouse at MGM National Harbor.

Chef José Andrés

Named “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation in 2011 and recognized by Time magazine on the “Time 100” list of most influential people in the world, José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, passionate advocate for food and hunger issues, author, television personality and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. José’s newest endeavor at MGM National Harbor, Fish, celebrates the best of Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, while incorporating time-honored cooking techniques from around the world.

VIP Tastemaker

Includes everything a Festival Drink Lovers Package offers, including General Admission, a commemorative cup, $25 drink credit, and 1 drink voucher, plus:

  • Exclusive private festival entrance courtesy of MGM National Harbor
  • Lounge seating for you and your friends
  • Specialty Cocktail Corner, featuring the region’s best mixologists (accessed only from VIP area)
  • Luxurious Illy coffee drinks

VIP Tastemaker Plus

Everything VIP Tastemaker offers plus:

  • Your choice of one session from a selection of several small-group seminars:
    Hour-long demonstrations and discussions with famous chefs, mixologists, and brewmasters providing you an exclusive behind-the-scenes look and stories from your favorite eateries, cantinas, taprooms, and vineyards
  • Each session will include an elegant welcome drink, welcome bite, and a cheese plate in addition to entrée samplings from DC’s finest restaurateurs

VIP programming is limited to 100 tickets per session so get your ticket today! More information on each Tastemaker Plus session can be found below.

The Tastemaker Tent Awaits You!

Taste of DC has put together an All-Star cast to bring the finest food and drinks to your table at each and every Tastemaker Plus session.

Here are some of the folks who are making the Tastemaker Tent a culinary adventure that can’t be missed!

Chef Jacoby Ponder

Chef Jacoby Ponder

Tastemaker Host

Taste of DC welcomes Jacoby Ponder to the Tastemaker Tent as host of this year’s Tastemaker Plus sessions. After appearing as a final contestant on Food Network’s CHOPPED and CUTTHROAT KITCHEN, Chef Ponder is carving his name in culinary history and earning the right to be mentioned among the food world’s greatest cooking professionals.

The bulk of Chef Ponder’s culinary skills and aspiration developed during his tenure as a Culinary Specialist serving proudly in the United States Navy. After transitioning back into civilian life, Ponder took the initiative to continue his education in culinary arts through the Culinary Institute of Virginia (ECPI University), and has now established his own culinary company, Chef Ponder & Co. – a talented team of choice chefs from the Hampton Roads, Virginia and Atlanta areas.

With a myriad of accolades that is consistently building, Chef Ponder is definitely approaching a prime time in his career. Chef Jacoby Ponder is taking the lean mean fine cuisine scene by storm as a Certified International Culinary expert to the stars.

Leigh Shull

Leigh Shull

Tastemaker Panel Emcee

Leigh Shull will be emceeing the Tastemaker Plus panels alongside Chef Ponder. Leigh’s passion is food and DNA is hospitality.  Before she made the move into financial services and corporate payments strategy, she focused on driving effective and efficient growth for industry leading chefs and restaurateurs. She is an alum of Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and Michael Schlow’s Good Essen restaurant group, where she helped grow the Blue Smoke and Alta Strada restaurant concepts, respectively. Prior to completing the Institute of Culinary Education’s Culinary Management Program, she apprenticed under two James Beard award winning chefs.

Born and raised in Washington, DC, Leigh now resides in A New York City with her husband and puppy, Zoey van Pickles. Leigh is an avid cyclist who loves to cook and take advantage of all of the restaurants NYC offers. In her free time, she dabbles in standup comedy. She has performed at Gotham Comedy Club, the People’s Improv Theatre, and the PIT Loft and was a finalist in the Gotham’s Funniest Person in Finance competition. Leigh holds a BA from Duke University and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Chef Terrance Tomlin

Chef Terence Tomlin

Executive Chef to the Tastemakers

Chef Terence Tomlin is bringing years of experience to the Tastemaker Tent as he serves as Executive Chef to the Tastemakers. Born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Chef Tomlin came to the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area in 2001. Prior to his relocation, Tomlin began his cooking career in 1989 working at the Bridgeport Holiday Inn, Metropolitan, Tavern on the Green, Shark Bar and other reputable New York tri-state restaurants.

After moving to the Washington, D.C. Area, Tomlin worked for the Ritz Carlton in Pentagon City, where he met and trained under Executive Chef Matthew Morrison, who continues to work with Tomlin to this day. Tomlin took a short hiatus from his cooking career to focus on family, but returned to open his own restaurant. Although the doors of his restaurant were closed due to a reclassification of the building, Tomlin kept his passion alive and continued his upscale dining experience at Brian Voltaggio’s Range, the Marriott and by assisting the launching of a local creole restaurant and others through consultation.

Tomlin opened TerenceTomlin Upscale Dining Experience in 2014, and has been instrumental in various high profile personal catering events from Farm to Table and high end 8 course meals promoted though Bookalokal.”Hey Baby” Vegetable Ice Cream was also launched which aims to educate consumers on the value and flexibility of cooking with vegetables.

Each Tastemaker Plus session includes a welcome drink, welcome bite, palate cleanser and a cheese plate to make guests feel truly at home as they enjoy mingling and dining with some of DC’s culinary powerhouses.

  • Start your Tastemaker Plus session off right with a complimentary welcome drink
  • Enjoy a savory welcome bite courtesy of Krave Jerky
  • Break between courses with a palate cleanser
  • Snack on a Cabot Creamery cheese plate

Taste of DC thanks all of our Tastemaker partners for being a part of the inaugural Tastemaker Plus program!

VIP Tastemaker Plus Sessions

One of the following sessions are available to VIP Tastemaker Plus ticket holders.

Women of Washington

2p.m. Saturday

Join local craftswomen who busted through the boys’ club to learn where the food and spirits industry is heading. Listen to a local female distiller, brewer, bartender and chef spill the secrets behind their burgeoning businesses, and be blown away by the ambrosial flavors infused into their signature fare.

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Shuckin’ Shots

4p.m. Saturday

Sip spirits and savor oysters paired to entice your palate. Under the guidance of a mixologist, learn how cocktails can complement the ocean’s aphrodisiac and bring out its flavorful notes. By the end of this mini mollusk masterclass, you’re sure to be in high spirits.

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50 Shades of Rosé

6p.m. Saturday

Give in to temptation and feast upon a decadent spread of mouth-watering aphrodisiacs. Irresistible couplings of oysters, chocolate and a crisp flirty rose make for the perfect romantic pregame that will bring pleasure to both couples and singles alike. We’ll arouse your senses — what happens next is up to you.

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1p.m. Sunday

Throw down for an all American bash of beer and BBQ in the heart of the Nation’s capital. Gather your crew to go whole hog with a local smokehouse and enjoy local brews while watching grill masters prep and cook an entire pig in a barbecue lover’s paradise.

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District Distilled

3p.m. Sunday

Drink in the spirits of The District with a special session dedicated to local distilleries. From craft to couture, you’ll sip, savor and celebrate the intoxicating flavors of Washington D.C.’s homegrown elixirs. Peek behind the barrel of this burgeoning industry through an interactive liquor lecture and a one-of-a-kind tasting that features gin, whiskey, and vodka.

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Dine Around at Taste of DC

Taste of DC is proud to partner with Spotluck to bring you the Spotluck Dine Around, an exclusive sampling station for Tastemaker and Tastemaker Plus Patrons highlighting Scott Parker restaurants.

All weekend long Scott will be featuring exclusive sample bites from his best restaurants in the area. Find out why people have been raving about Don Tito for the past year and get your first look at the new Barley Mac. Chat with the teams that have created some of the most unique dishes in the DMV and get the inside scoop on some brand new dining options. Either way, get ready to enjoy exclusive, unlimited food options only available to Tastemaker and Tastemaker Plus ticketholders.

Barley Mac

At a place that specializes in whiskey & bourbon, one would think that the focus in food would come second. However, at Barley Mac, that’s not the case as already “next level” pub fare has been taken to the next level. Comfort food be damned – this is hug you all the time food!

Don Tito

You may think you have had every type of “American twist” on Mexican cuisine, but the folks at Don Tito know that you really haven’t. Ever had a fried avocado? What about french fries in your tacos? Don Tito knows how to shake it up and keep you trying something new every time.

Don Taco

The menu may seem simple at Don Taco, but that does not mean the flavors are. Each taco description starts out standard, but there is an unexpected ingredient in every one. If you think that you are in the mood for pork, do your life a favor and make a special trip for the Banh Mi. Trust us!


When it comes to the menu, this Sunday Funday party time brunch place brings it just as hard the rest of the week. If you find yourself at A-Town realizing that you are not in the mood for the delicious Big Time Burger (why not??!), just pull out their premium sushi menu and check out some seriously unique rolls.

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