“Tell the Kitchen to Kick It Up a Little”

By Jack Limpert

Charlie Cook continues to be the most insightful and entertaining writer and talker about politics in Washington—here’s his National Journal column today on “6 Ways Washington Will Stay the Same.” 

Charlie founded the Cook Political Report in 1984, wrote for Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, from 1986 to 1998, and then moved his column over to the National Journal.

Ken DeCell, a longtime senior editor at The Washingtonian, is from Mississippi, where he grew up having a bottle of Coca Cola every morning for breakfast. He started editing at The Washingtonian in 1982 but took a break in the late 1980s to edit Roll Call. Charlie is from Louisiana and the two Southern boys hit it off.

After Ken came back to The Washingtonian, he set up a lunch with Charlie so the three of us could talk politics. We went to Cafe Atlantico, a downtown DC restaurant opened in 1995 by Jose Andres, now maybe the city’s most famous chef. Cafe Atlantico specialized in “Nuevo Latino” cuisine and on the menu that day was “Jerk Chicken,” a dish Charlie knew from growing up in Louisiana.

When the waiter took our orders, Charlie ordered the Jerk Chicken and asked if it was hot.

“Pretty hot,” the  waiter said. Charlie told him, “Tell the kitchen to kick it up a little.”

After 15 minutes of drinks and talk, the food arrived. Ken and I were sitting across from Charlie and he wasn’t saying anything as he ate but we could see his face getting redder and beads of perspiration on his forehead. I looked over at the waiter, who was standing nearby with a half-smile on his face.


  1. I still break out in sweat when I remember that lunch. Habanero peppers, as I recall. My stomach hurts thinking about that meal.

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