The Crowd: Knife Pleat is the venue as South Coast Plaza celebrates big milestone

Influencers Maggie Chen, Lynn Liou, Christine Kong and Minou Anthony with Christopher Gialanella, publisher, Modern Luxury.
(Nicholas Koon Photography for South Coast Plaza)

In a world of constant change, long-standing traditions of all kinds are often lost. In the world of retail, the once iconic staples of American shopping including Sears, Montgomery Ward, May Co., Bullock’s, I. Magnin, Orbach’s, Buffums and so many others have vanished with time and trend.

Online shopping is a partial culprit for the demise of same, yet in-person shopping remains alive and well. Nothing replaces the experience. Moreover, being out and about with others checking out the latest offerings, walking the stores, taking in all the sensory implosion of sight, sound, touch, and smell in the real world, still makes all the difference.

South Coast Plaza, a significant part of the O.C. fabric of life, announced the celebration of its 55th anniversary in 2022, beginning the season sharing record sales exceeding $2 billion in 2021 in spite of the most challenging of times during the pandemic.


Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing, South Coast Plaza.
(Nicholas Koon Photography for South Coast Plaza)

Honoring the milestone, Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing, threw a little dinner for fashionistas, influencers, and media celebs in the extraordinary dining room known as Knife Pleat on South Coast Plaza’s Penthouse level. The dinner was in fact, anything but “little.”

For some six decades, South Coast Plaza, under the dedicated tutelage of the Segerstrom Family, O.C. founding family farmers and developers, has established a level of perfection with everything they associate with, produce or support. The late Henry Segerstrom demanded “only the best” and the legacy continues despite massive change in the industry, trends in society, technology and human behavior.

Gunn Downing was joined by Segerstrom scion and SCP partner, Anton Segerstrom welcoming guests for dinner on the open-air terrace adjacent to the Knife Pleat dining room. Marketing execs Lisa Liddane and Lee Healy greeted the crush including Gustavo Arellano, L.A. Times columnist; Andrew Harris, executive producer of the SoCal Restaurant Show; Benjamin Epstein with Alan Gibbons of Orange Coast Magazine; and Todd Harmonson, senior editor Southern California News Group.

Knife Pleat team from left: Yassmin Sarmadi, restaurateur, Germain Biotteau, pastry chef, Tony Esnault, chef,
Knife Pleat team from left: Yassmin Sarmadi, restaurateur, Germain Biotteau, pastry chef, Tony Esnault, chef, prepare dinner in honor of South Coast Plaza’s 55th Anniversary launch celebration.
(David Chiem)

Celebrated Knife Pleat Chef Tony Esnault joined his wife and partner, restaurateur Yassmin Sarmadi in creating a spring menu. The table setting by White Lilac invoked a dreamy sophisticated al fresco dinner that might have unfolded somewhere on an ocean view perch in the South of France.

Multicolored and random variety florals that appeared to have just been plucked from garden beds, adorned low, single glass containers lining tables that somehow felt like a picnic. Candles flickered in square modern hurricanes, fine champagne flowed followed by very fine wines.

The young, the bold and au courant “influencers” with social media might such as photographer/writer David Chiem, Lynn Liou, Ashley Yi, Loreen Hwang, Minou Anthony and Maggie Chen had their cellphones in full use. Christopher Gialanella and Allison Mitchell of Riviera Magazine joined Women’s Wear Daily executive editor Booth Moore, Los Angeles Times senior features writer Adam Tschorn, Blue Door Magazine editor Kedric Francis and Anne Valdespino, writer, O.C. Register.

Booth Moore, executive editor, Women's Wear Daily with Adam Tschorn, senior features writer, Los Angeles Times.
Booth Moore, executive editor, Women’s Wear Daily with Adam Tschorn, senior features writer, Los Angeles Times at 55th Anniversary celebration dinner at South Coast Plaza.
(Nicholas Koon Photography for South Coast Plaza)

Dinner remarks were brief. This was a time to celebrate, not pitch. A bit of boasting, however, was appropriate. Gunn Downing shared the SCP success story touting the arrival of Buccellati, a first-time opening on the West Coast for the storied brand of Italian design in fine jewelry and objects for the home artfully crafted. Also shared, Hermés marks its 25th year at SCP with its new store taking over the former Tiffany & Co. space with a handsomely created modern feel.

Yassmin Sarmadi’s ultra-pro-staff served a multicourse dinner as the sun left the Costa Mesa horizon, beginning with an exceptional amuse bouche, then a salad of spring vegetables, chopped and very delicately dressed in a vinaigrette. The finest sea bass filet followed, with a fresh strawberry tart at the meal’s end.

Anton Segerstrom, Partner, South Coast Plaza welcomes guests at 55th Anniversary dinner held at Knife Pleat, SCP.
(Nicholas Koon Photography for South Coast Plaza)

The evening was all about enduring style; fabulous food, gracious service, glorious setting, and most importantly great people and wonderful conversation. A changing world does not overshadow values that elevate the human experience. Congratulations, South Coast Plaza, on 55 years of raising the bar.

Special events will take place at South Coast Plaza through March 2023, connecting the history, culture, fashion, dining and life in the O.C. over a half century.

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