On March 12, 2017, thirty-two of the county’s top chefs came together at the county’s most exclusive culinary fundraiser at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, to participate at Illumination Foundation’s 2017 OC Chef’s Table. This event raised over $680,000 for the construction of a new emergency house for homeless families with children.
“We promised last year that we are raising money for a house. We have that house now. It is a great honor and we are very happy that with your help we were able to fulfill one of our first dreams. Theriault House is ready to house only this year 180 families, over 400 children. But tonight we have even bigger dreams and plans,” said Paul Leon, Illumination Foundation CEO and President.
Over 320 of Orange County’s most elite guests attended the second rendition of OC Chef’s Table, including California State Senator representing Senate District 29, Josh Newman; 46th District U.S. Representative, Lou Correa; Anaheim Mayor, Tom Tait; Anaheim Mayor Pro Tem, James Vanderbilt; Orange County Supervisor, Todd Spitzer; Santa Ana Mayor Pro Tem, Michele Martinez; Los Angeles Angels Chairman, Dennis Kuhl; Vice President, OC Hospital Association of Southern California, Whitney Ayers; President of Wells Fargo South County Community Bank, Ben Alvarado;President of the Disneyland Resort, Michael Colglazier; and Senior Vice President, Disneyland Resort and Illumination Foundation chairwoman, Mary Niven.
Every dish, libation and extravagant decoration was designed and donated by the chefs and restaurants with the intention of making the night unforgettable for every guest and raising funds for Illumination Foundation’s Emergency Home. Each table burst with colors, textures, decorations and smells. The tablescapes all ranging in shapes and sizes. Some restaurants chose simple yet meaningful centerpieces, such as Anchor Hitch’s Bonsai trees representing their environmentally-conscious and one-with-nature cuisine style. Other restaurants such as Waterman’s exhibited extravagant 5-foot decorations filled with hanging fruits, vegetables and flowers. Some even displayed delicate and meaningful flowers, such as poppies, known as a symbol of remembrance of soldiers who have died during wartime. Antonello Ristorante even featured a plethora of live Beta fish in their magnificent centerpiece (Picture Above), while Nick’s Restaurants’ tall flower chandelier featured Illumination Foundation’s symbolic “IF,” representing the foundation’s mission of shedding light on the growing homeless population and a flame of hope those in the ballroom give to our most vulnerable homeless families and children.
“OC Chef’s Table gives the opportunity to give back to our community. I want to help the community and contribute to this cause,” said Omar Gonzalez, Nick’s Restaurants Regional Chef.
At the entrance of the event, a large three-panel display of a family transitioning from living in their car during a dark, stormy night, then walking into Illumination Foundation’s Emergency House where they were offered stability, job search support and case management among other services, and last transitioning into their very own permanent home. As guests entered the foyer, they witnessed the Battle of the Chefs between Chefs Michael Doctulero of Waterman’s Harbor and Chef Jennifer Ravalo of SuShe Art. In a tight competition to find out who makes the most creative, beautiful and exquisite sushi, Chef Jennifer Ravalo and her all women staff took the winning title. During cocktail hour guests also participated in a silent auction with prizes ranging from an Anaheim Ducks VIP experience to exotic trips around the world. Guests also enjoyed the company of a glamorous Mickey and Minnie in a step and repeat setting which gave each guest a special keepsake photo of their visit to the dynamic duo.
Once in the ballroom, guests were welcomed by Mary Niven, senior vice president of Disneyland Resort, followed by a special performance by IF’s Children’s Resource Center choir and former Broadway performer, Michelle London. Matt Rogers, American Idol finalist and television personality hosted the live auction, which featured extravagant experiences, such as a week at a Tuscan villa and an unforgettable behind-the-scenes music experience at the Country Music Awards.
This year’s table sponsors and guests included Disneyland Resort, Arcuri-Cutrell Coldwell Banker Commercial, Wells Fargo, Molina Healthcare, Guaranty Chevrolet and many others.
Illumination Foundation is currently working on acquiring the land and garnering partnerships to build the new emergency house in the coming year, which is expected to house over 200 homeless families with children.
“We are overwhelmed by the support of the community and we are all about giving back. The homeless community is still part of the community but they are usually forgotten. We are proud to be a part of a movement that sheds light on such a major issue that highly affects our community. You succeed by helping others succeed,“ said Michael Pham, Anchor Hitch executive chef.