Anyone who’s been to Taste of the Nation Los Angeles knows this is not the kind of fundraiser where one politely pays more for a dainty plate of food. It’s a gourmet feast where a little gluttony can fuel a lot of charity, featuring some of Southern California’s best-loved chefs, deftly uniting the culinary with the altruistic.
Sunday’s 21st annual Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation, which takes place locally in Culver City, includes cooking demos from XIV’s Michael Mina and Border Grill and Ciudad’s Mary Sue Milliken, a silent auction, waiter races and a mole cook-off between well-known Mexican restaurants, Moles La Tia, Guelaguetza and Tlapazola Grill.
But the big draw are the 46 booths where many of Los Angeles’ most highly regarded restaurants will hand out samples of their signature dishes, including the Bazaar by Jose Andres, Mozza, Lucques, Craft, Palate Food + Wine, Church & State and Rivera.
Even fellow chefs are impressed.
“I am just looking forward to trying food from all the other restaurants,” says Evan Kleiman, owner of Angeli Caffe and host of weekly KCRW radio program “Good Food.”
In addition to overseeing the popular beet and ricotta gnocchi at Angeli’s booth, she’s judging the mole showdown alongside LA Weekly food writer Jonathan Gold and cookbook author Nancy Zaslavsky.
Bazaar will mix molecular gastronomy with traditional tapas, offering Andres’ trademark spherified olives alongside slivers of jamon iberico. Then there are mini-Reuben sandwiches with house-smoked corned beef from the chefs of Grace and BLD; pani puri (puffed balls of fried dough) and chrysanthemum mint tea from Susan Feniger’s Street; Maine lobster wrapped in sweet corn crepes and topped with Thai curry sauce from XIV; chili and smoked Kobe beef brisket from Tiara Cafe; butterscotch budino from Mozza; and 41 other options.
Unlike many charity events where funds are distributed at a national level, the money raised at each Taste of the Nation event benefits programs within the host city.
In Los Angeles, 100% of ticket sales will be divided among five charities that are working to end hunger. Among them are Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Los Angeles Coalition to End Hunger & Homelessness.
“A lot of us do several benefits a year for several charities,” Kleiman says, “but I love Taste of the Nation because it’s so direct and funds so many good people doing work right here in Southern California. I think that’s why chefs are so willing to participate.”
Taste of the Nation Los Angeles
Where: Media Park, Culver and Venice boulevards, Culver City
When: 1 to 4 p.m. Sundays
Price: $115, advance; $125, day-of; $175, VIP
Contact: (877) 268-2783, www.tasteofthenationla.org