The event: The Global Gourmet Games, a gala fundraiser for FasterCures, staged as a high-spirited competition that pits guests against one another to answer questions about food, wine and related trivia, such as which country consumes the most chicken per capita. (Of the five choices given for the latter question, Poland won out over Vietnam, India, Sweden and Morocco.)
The scene: In top hat and tails, financier Michael Milken presided over the affair on Saturday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where the various teams, divided into tables named for countries, attempted to rank wines by price, guess terms associated with sushi and determine which desserts had the highest fat content. For the latter round, the cookie plate topped the list, but then the cookie plate included French macaroons with a supremely decadent cream filling.
The gala offered a gourmet feast, served on turntables family-style with a generous selection of appetizers, main courses and desserts. Because enthusiasm also generated extra points in the competition, some teams brought flags, accessories or other props.
The teams: Hyatt Hotel heir Anthony Pritzer played for Thailand, bringing along a miniature version of a Thai temple. Arts patron Maria Bell doled out flag-themed hats to her Costa Rica teammates, who also included her husband Bill Bell and George Kotsiopoulos of TV’s “Fashion Police.” Former ambassador to Uruguay Frank Baxter served on Team Vietnam, while Relativity Media’s European Union group included Chief Executive Ryan Kavanaugh and Bradley Cooper of “American Hustle.”
Never mind that the Duke of York, a.k.a. Britain’s Prince Andrew, represents his country in an official capacity. On this occasion, said Milken from the podium, “[Prince Andrew] was kidnapped earlier this evening and brought onto the Mongolian team.”
The crowd: Quite the illustrious gathering of business leaders, philanthropists, Hollywood VIPs, sports figures, government officials and the aforementioned royalty; guests also included Barbra Streisand and James Brolin, rapper LL Cool J, Maurice Harkless of the Orlando Magic, former Laker John Salley, Citigroup Chief Executive Michael Corbat, Heritage Provider Network’s CEO Richard Merkin, Nobel laureate David Baltimore, Dallas philanthropist Lyda Hill, South African mining magnate Patrice Motsepe, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The numbers: Tallying up proceeds from 360 guests — tickets priced at $2,500, tables ranging upward to $100,000 — an auction and added contributions, the event raised an estimated $3 million for FasterCures, an organization dedicated to accelerating medical research to find cures for life-threatening diseases.
The gala dinner also served as a kickoff to the four-day Milken Institute Global Conference, which attracts more than 3,000 people to Beverly Hills to hear more than 650 of the world’s top thinkers discuss some of today’s most pressing issues in business, health, government and education.
Ellen Olivier is founder of Society News LA.