By tradition, the yearly Global Gourmet Games event turns out to be fun but fiercely competitive in a test of food knowledge, wine expertise and trivia. And this year’s was no exception. As an added twist, Michael Milken, dressed in the guise of Sherlock Holmes, acted as the emcee of Saturday’s affair, asking guests to seek clues in a search for a criminal mastermind named Professor Moriarty.
No mystery shrouded the event’s purpose. By evening’s end, thanks to ticket sales, additional contributions and what Milken called “the shortest auctions in the history of the world,” the gala raised a whopping $6 million for FasterCures and the Center for Public Health, which are based in Washington, D.C., and part of the Milken Institute.
Taking place at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, the Global Gourmet Games honored former Dodger and Yankee manager and Hall of Famer Joe Torre with the Tommy Lasorda Leadership Award, which was named for the baseball player, coach and manager. The event also served to kick off the four-day Milken Institute Global Conference, which began Sunday.
With more than 4,000 people from 60 countries expected to attend, the conference will feature 800 speakers as diverse as International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde; Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s acting chief of staff; White House adviser Ivanka Trump; fashion designer Donna Karan; Rwanda President Paul Kagame; baseball great Alex Rodriguez; U2 lead guitarist the Edge; and the cast of the Netflix series “Ozark.”
As guests settled into their seats at tables named for various countries, a video explained the game’s scoring system and, lest anyone aim too high, the instructions ended with the line, “Only God and Queen Mummy are perfect.”
Throughout the evening, guests sampled a variety of dishes for each course. Their knowledge was tested on calorie counts, fat content and other food facts, such as which country produces the most onions. (The answer is China.)
Given that enthusiasm also generated points, several teams dressed in costumes native to their assigned country-themed teams, waved their nation’s flags or brought props — in one case, miniature palm trees — for their tables. Team USA wore red baseball caps, but rather than drag politics into the ballroom, the inscriptions read: “Make the Gourmet Games Great Again.”
The official ceremonies
In accepting the Tommy Lasorda Leadership Award, Torre first acknowledged Lasorda by saying, “Anything that has this man’s name on it is something special.” Then he said, “I’m so touched by not only the award but also by having the friendship of Tommy all these years.”
Also crediting the Yankees and Dodgers for his success as a team manager, Torre added, “I get a lot of the accolades for leading these clubs, but I’ll tell you, you can’t win the Kentucky Derby on a quarter horse. I had some thoroughbreds. Trust me.”
“For me, this is a date night with my wife, Natasha,” said former NBA star John Salley, who attends each year, although the couple eats only the vegan plates and side dishes. “It’s a fun night, and you learn some fun things. And even if you know the answers, you have to convince the others [on your team] that you know the answers.”
“This is a town where everybody’s somebody, and there are a lot of people who have done well,” said rocker Gene Simmons of KISS during a conversation during dinner. “And we can come here and play dress-up and have nice food and be surrounded by the beautiful people, but in the end, does it make somebody’s life better? I’m here to support Michael [Milken] because he does actually put himself out, and he doesn’t have to do this. And at the end of the day, he does a lot of good.”
Tickets for the nearly 400 guests began at $2,500, and tables ranged up to $100,000, with proceeds going to the Biomedical Innovation Incubator, a FasterCures program to accelerate the development of medical products, and the Opioid Clinical Incubator, a Milken Institute Center for Public Health initiative to address the country’s opioid epidemic.