The event: Chefs' Showcase, a movable feast staged by Cooking With Vision, a support group of the Blind Children's Learning Center in Santa Ana. Held Thursday at the Robert Mondavi Wine & Food Center in Costa Mesa, the benefit raised funds for center scholarships and educational programs.
Food lovers' fantasy: About 160 guests, most avid cooks, roamed from station to station sampling gourmet dishes prepared by six Orange County chefs. Guests were impressed by the exotic fare, especially the tequila-cured gravlax and horseradish potato pancakes prepared by chef Marc Cohen of 230 Forest Avenue restaurant in Laguna Beach.
Mingling with the crowd were three visually-impaired students who received scholarships from Cooking With Vision: Rebeca Valladares, 15, of Anaheim High School; Brian Bushway, 15, of Mission Viejo High School; and Kylene Quigley, 16, of Foothill High School in Santa Ana.
Good taste: Cooking With Vision was founded five years ago when supporters of the center decided they wanted to help raise funds--with food as the main attraction. "Four times a year we have classes with outstanding chefs in a home or in a restaurant," said Claire Burt, showcase chairwoman. "We all love to cook."
The only membership requirement: Once a year, each of the 45 members assists in weekly luncheons at the center that teach students table manners. Last week's special dinner marked the center's 35th anniversary.
The center serves more than 120 visually-impaired students from birth to age 21, regardless of their ability to pay. Programs include instruction in Braille, mobility, self-help skills, as well as counseling and job training.
Quote: "One of the things we're fighting at the center is that when these students go into the workplace there are no jobs," said Gabrielle Hass, executive director of the center. "They leave school, and their safety net is gone. We want to change society's attitudes and give them the skills they need."
Faces: Chefs John Sharpe of Bistro 201 in Newport Beach; Paul Buchanen of Topaz Cafe at the Bowers Museum; Diane Weber of the Ritz Restaurant in Newport Beach; Dennis Brask of Five Crowns in Corona del Mar; Craig Rouse of Scott's Seafood Grill in Costa Mesa; and Paul Squicciarini of the Mondavi Center. Also attending were Ed Slater, master of ceremonies; Mary Smith; Mike and Charlene Immell; Clifton and Bea Webb; and Linn Morgan.
Bottom line: The $75-per-person showcase was expected to net about $15,000 for the center. Scholarships are awarded to sixth- through 10th-grade students to provide learning materials such as computers. For information: (714) 573-8880.