Besides working for the American Petroleum Institute, lobbyist Brian Marshall Johnson has kitchen ambitions. He calls himself The Hungry Lobbyist and, in recent months, has launched a food blog, is auditioning for an amateurs episode of Food Network's "Chopped," and is hoping to publish a cookbook that perfectly suits Capitol Hill's "toothpick rule," which bars lawmakers from accepting most free food from special interests, minus appetizers, many of which are often served up on toothpicks.
Johnson, who has no culinary training, came up with The Hungry Lobbyist concept several years ago while attending an D.C. event, shortly after the ethics rules changed. "So I thought, well, what a great way to have a D.C. flair or a D.C. niche if I took all of the classic food and cuisines from around D.C. and turned it into a sort of bite-sized, appetizer or hor d'oeuvres-type cookbook," Johnson said.
But before the cookbook could happen, Johnson started by blogging. His Hungry Lobbyist blog, which launched in May, includes local restaurant reviews and his favorite recipes, like indoor pork ribs for when it's too hot to grill.
He's also working on toothpicked versions of some of his favorite meals. "One of my favorite French restaurants in D.C. is La Chaumiere, across from the Four Seasons in Georgetown, and they do an amazing salmon Wellington and so I thought there's got to be a way to turn this into something that's bite-sized and delicious and portable and a little easier to make and so I did that," he explained. Johnson, who fishes in upstate New York, used fresh salmon for his dish. "You just pull the salmon meat out very delicately, you almost make a salmon patty or a salmon croquette ... and you wrap it in phyllo dough and you bake that and it turns into a miniature, bite-sized salmon Wellington and they're delicious."
To gain more notoriety in the kitchen, Johnson is in the process of auditioning for "Chopped." He filmed his final audition over the weekend, and will know in several weeks if he made the cut. "I was actually at a dinner with a congressman and they emailed me," he said.