First-Ever Congressional Veggie Burger Smackdown Held in Washington, DC

Courtesy of PCRM/Photographer Tim Barker

Courtesy of PCRM/Photographer Tim Barker

History was made in Washington yesterday, and it didn’t involve legislation. Capitol Hill saw its first-ever veggie burger battle.

Dubbed the “Congressional Veggie Burger Smackdown,” the event featured plant-based burgers with different sauces—one representing each of four vegetarian or vegan lawmakers.

Dreamed up by the the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), in partnership with the bipartisan Vegetarian Caucus, the event served as an alternative to the American Meat Institute’s Annual Hot Dog Lunch.

The burgers and sauces were whipped up by Chef Todd Gray of Washington, DC’s Equinox restaurant. Gray has been garnering major attention lately for the Vegan Smackdown Challenge, a project where he veganizes iconic dishes by famous chefs.

The burger base at the Congressional event was Gray’s FLOTUS burger, a mix of mushrooms, black beans, and quinoa (originally created as a vegan version of Spike Mendelsohn’s Prez Obama Burger). The chef created four brand-new sauces to pair with the FLOTUS.

According to PCRM, Gray prepared a slow-cooked tomato sauce to represent Sen. Booker’s state (New Jersey); a roasted corn and sweet pepper salsa for Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona); a caramelized black pepper pineapple sauce for Rep. Gabbard (Hawaii), and a shredded carrot and orange jam for Rep. Ted Deutch (Florida).

“I was so excited about the level of energy and enthusiasm in the room and to see our lawmakers and their staff so pumped to be somewhat rebellious against the meat marketing machine — everyone was so proud to be in our own special veggie burger arena,” Gray told Latest Vegan News. “I thought the biggest ‘smack down/showdown’ was between the meat and the plant-based. Everyone in the room understood the importance of making better choices for our health, the environment, and animals. It was great.”

Members of Congress and staff had the chance to sample the burgers and vote on their favorite. Sen. Booker’s won with 36 percent of the vote, followed by Rep. Gabbard’s at 35 percent, Rep. Deutch’s at 15 percent, and Rep. Sinema’s at 14 percent.

PCRM will also be sending the Superintendent of Newark Public Schools (Christoper Cerf) 15 to 20 copies of Vegetabibbles for K-2 students as a way of commemorating New Jersey’s veggie burger win.

“There is no question that I have more energy as a result of this, much to the chagrin of my staff,” said Rep. Ted Deutch at the event. “There’s no question that I feel better. And that I feel really good about what I’m doing, as Tulsi alluded, not just for myself, but for the environment.”

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Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief

Hannah Sentenac, Editor-in-Chief

A wizard of words, lover of all living things and vegan mac 'n cheese master, Hannah is the Editor-In-Chief and Founder of Her writing has appeared in Live Happy magazine, the Miami New Times,,, and numerous other publications and websites. She's obsessed with Cocowhip, Just Mayo and Dandies marshmallows, and is totally addicted to the outdoors. You can reach Hannah directly at

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