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Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance Turns Up the Heat at Annual Gala

By Samantha Subin

Elle Simone Scott stepped onto the stage at The Anthem in D.C. to a room of over 300 guests, beaming with confidence, as the sound of sizzling pans, laughter and loud applause echoed in the background.

“I know y’all are excited,” she shouted.

Scott, a two-year ovarian cancer survivor who hosts PBS’s “America’s Test Kitchen,” emceed the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance’s “Turn Up the Heat” event held at The Wharf on March 5. The evening celebrated female chefs, ovarian cancer survivors and delicious food and drinks prepared by over 40 different female chefs and mixologists.

“We’re thrilled to be hosting our annual ‘Turn Up the Heat’ event in support of all women who have been touched by ovarian cancer,” Audra Moran, Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance (OCRA) president and CEO, said in a press release. “Having the top female chefs in Washington, D.C., supporting our cause sends a powerful message to all those affected by the disease, while also creating a fantastic evening of food, cocktails and fun.”

turn up the heat
Chef Elle Simone Scott, left, Audra Moran (President and CEO of Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance) and Chef Seng Luangrath. Photo: Daniel Swartz

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women, accounting for more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. About 22,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2019, and nearly 14,00 will die from it.

Ovarian cancer has a high survival rate if it is found early. But because women usually don’t exhibit symptoms until the cancer has reached a later stage and because there is no screening test for ovarian cancer, many women are diagnosed with the disease after it has progressed, decreasing the chances of survival.

OCRA is the largest ovarian cancer organization nationwide that funds research, advocates for patients and supports survivors. The organization has invested over $85 million in ovarian cancer research since 1998, according to its website. “Turn Up the Heat” is the organization’s annual fundraiser held in Boston and D.C. that was created partially in memory of American chef Barbara Tropp, who died of ovarian cancer in 2001.

In an interview with the Diplomatic Pouch, Scott said the event had a “warm” atmosphere where she felt supported and surrounded by peers.

“It was great to be surrounded by colleagues and new women chefs that I didn’t know,” she said. “I was very excited to see that there was such a diverse group of women chefs. So, it was great to meet so many types of women.”

ben ferencz netherlands
Chef Tracy O’Grady of 1789 Restaurant, left, Chef Ruth Gresser of Pizzeria Paradiso and Chef Emily Baran of Moreland’s Tavern. Photo: Daniel Swartz

Scott said she felt connected to the evening because of Tropp, who was the founder of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), an organization that Scott is a member of, which supports women chefs.

“It’s quite serendipitous — being a survivor, emceeing an event that was founded by Barbara Tropp, who was a culinary maverick and still is to this day — to know that I’m kind of three times removed from her,” she said. “Once from WCR, one for ovarian cancer and then OCRA.”

Scott said she enjoyed interacting with guests and encouraging them to donate to help ovarian cancer patients that are suffering from the financial pressures of prescriptions and services. On a lighter note, she said her favorite part of the evening was the brown butter bourbon bread pudding she sampled during a break.

“It was to die for,” Scott raved. “It just danced all over your palette. It touched all the good parts.” The chef added that she appreciated the effort made to share the dish with her.

“When you’re moving around and you’re doing all the working parts, you can’t really talk because you have to listen for your questions to be back on stage,” Scott said. “They literally shoved this pudding into my hands.”

Like Scott, Seng Luangrath, chef and owner of the Laotian restaurant Thip Khao, who has participated in the event since 2015, has an intimate connection to ovarian cancer. The chef’s longtime friend died of the disease and the coconut curry noodles she prepared at this year’s event was in her memory.

Turn Up The Heat
Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance "Turn Up The Heat” Guests at The Anthem. Photo: Daniel Swartz

“It’s a good cause and I had a lot of fun,” Luangrath told us. “On that night, I was making the dish that my friend really loved, that I loved. I actually cooked with her a lot on days off.”

Luangrath also stressed the importance of the evening’s cause, calling on survivors and ovarian cancer patients to continue to fight and “stay strong.”

“There is some hope in the future so stay positive,” she said. “Don’t give up. Just keep on fighting and hopefully one day we will find a cure for this cancer.”


Samantha Subin is an editorial intern for The Washington Diplomat.



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