Every time Orange County’s most acclaimed chefs gather at the Disneyland Resort for OC Chef’s Table, magic happens.
On Sunday, March 3, 2019, magic was in play again, with more than $1.017 million raised in the name of ending homelessness. Each year, patrons and top-ranked chefs work together to raise funds for the non-profit organization Illumination Foundation, which secures recuperative care, emergency housing and permanent housing for homeless families, children and individuals. In an effort to help these community members get back on their feet, Illumination Foundation also provides a multitude of wrap-around services, including mental health support, children’s resource centers and tutoring, substance abuse counseling, work force help and more. Thanks to the gracious efforts of 42 acclaimed chefs and more than 400 patrons, funds raised at this year’s OC Chef’s Table will go toward building a large emergency house for families in dire need. It is modeled after the success of Illumination Foundation’s first emergency house, the Stanton-based Theriault House.
In December, in an effort to shield homeless individuals from the unusual onslaught of wind, cold and rain, the City of Anaheim and Illumination Foundation made history. Over a rapid 21 days, the entities worked together to create a state-of-the-art temporary shelter. At Sunday’s OC Chef’s Table, the four Anaheim-based gentlemen responsible for the decision and fast action were honored with a 2019 Community Champion Award – Bill Taormina, Dan Young, Todd Ament and Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu. “This is the standard moving forward,” said Illumination Foundation CEO & President Paul Leon. “What these gentlemen managed to accomplish has supported our foundation’s efforts more in six months than in the last 12 years put together.”
Chefs at the evening’s event were a veritable who’s who of Orange County and L.A.s finest, including Disneyland Resort’s Host Chef Andrew Sutton, The Farmhouse’s Rich Mead, Disneyland® Club 33’s Clint Chin, Chef Bryan Brown with Bourbon Steak, Mastro’s Chefs Magellan Moore and Stephen LaFountain, Chef Jason Neroni of Venice’s Rose Café, The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon’s Michael Rossi, Chef Leo Razo of Villa Roma and Cambalache, and even Argentina’s #1 Chef Martin Molteni, who flew in specifically for the event and as a representative of the revival of Laguna Beach’s Royal Hawaiian.
As chefs created immaculate dinners for their guests, the stage came alive with Illumination Foundation’s Children’s Choir and a lively auction. (At one point, celebrity John Stamos stood to match the wining auction amount for an onstage experience with the Beach Boys.) One of the evening highlights included a video presentation introduced by brother and sister, Dilan and Celine, both of whom were homeless, experienced the congruent services and attention from Illumination Foundation, and rose to the top of their classes, earning full-ride scholarships to the universities of their choice.
To conclude the high-energy evening, the patrons’ vote for “favorite tablescape” was revealed and awarded to Chef Linda Johnsen’s Filomena’s Italian Kitchen table. “There was a time in my 20s when I experienced homelessness, “said Chef Johnsen. “I needed help. Women are out there right now with similar stories, and many of them have children to care for. “When you’re down and out, you just need to feel that tug of knowing that someone cares and has resources to help get you on your feet again,” she continued. “That’s what Illumination Foundation is doing for so many families right now. They’re getting these adults and children off the streets and helping them rebuild their lives. I will do whatever I can – for many years to come – to support Illumination Foundation’s great work.
Learn more about OC Chef’s Table chefs at OCChefsTable.com