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The Crowd: Quite a spread dished up at 55th annual Chef’s Dinner

Restaurateur James Hamamori with Jennifer and Anton Segerstrom at Careers Through Culinary Arts Dinner at South Coast Plaza.
(Ryan Miller)

Culinary power-broker Barbara Fairchild, former longtime editor of Bon Appétit, chatted with Tanya Steel, national director of Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP), at the 55th Anniversary Chef’s Dinner benefiting C-CAP held June 5 at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Fairchild and Steel toasted signature cocktails created for the evening held on the South Coast Plaza penthouse level dining terrace featuring the Michelin Star restaurant Knife Pleat. A curated selection of respected Orange County-based culinary artisans joined the C-CAP event in order to raise impressive funds supporting education of the next generation of experts in the field.

Front and center were Knife Pleat’s fabulous Chef Tony Esnault and his restaurateur wife Yassmin Sarmadi, Vaca’s Amar Santana with Ahmed Labbate, and James Hamamori from his namesake dining room. Also in the distinguished lineup were Nick Weber of Populaire, John Park from Tableau and Ross Pangilinan of Terrace by Mix Mix. All of them collaborated to create the dining event of the early summer.

Former editor of Bon Appétit, Barbara Fairchild, right, with restaurateur Joan McNamara at Culinary Arts Scholarship Dinner.
Former editor of Bon Appétit, Barbara Fairchild, right, with restaurateur Joan McNamara at Culinary Arts Scholarship Dinner held at South Coast Plaza.
(Ryan Miller)

South Coast Plaza’s Debra Gunn Downing and Lee Healy worked with the uber-creative Sunny Ravanbach of White Lilac designing décor for the evening worthy of a Town and Country magazine cover. Ravanbach’s floral, tablescape and room design is unmatched in its originality. Her “wow” factor may be either sublime or explosive; it is always present.

Taking note of the exquisite surroundings and sipping on a summer cocktail billed as Summer Pine — infused with Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin with a touch of grapefruit oleo-pineapple gomme syrup — were Jennifer and Anton Segerstrom, Anne and Danny Shih, Bower’s Museum’s Peter Keller, Joan McNamara from Joan on Third, Andy Harris, Marguarite Clark, Ja Torres (C-CAP grad) and Sean Laney, founder-president of BNG Hospitality, which will soon open Park Club at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Guests mingled at the récéption avant le dîner enjoying small bites provided by the celebrity chefs including everything from beef tartare to roasted cauliflower florets in ginger serrano sauce. The wine-pared multicourse dinner, commenced with potato-leek puree followed by a Romesco, saffron hollandaise paella, and entrée of chicken roulade with morels in sauce vin jaune. Finally, a strawberry Linzer sablée completed the dinner, served with Veuve Clicquot Brut, Yellow Label.

Ja Torres, a graduate of the Culinary Arts Career program with C-CAP executive director Tanya Steel.
(Ryan Miller)

The intimate, candlelit celebration raised in excess of $100,000 for C-CAP (LA) providing underserved high school youth with the opportunity to experience culinary training and scholarships for advanced careers in the hospitality industry.

Old Hollywood Lives

The Pacific Symphony Orchestra journeyed back in time, taking nearly 400 patrons on a glamorous romp to a long-past era of fantasy on the big screen. “A Night In Old Hollywood” debuted June 18 at Potocki Center for the Arts’ World Cup polo field, bringing symphony benefactors together for the annual gala-fundraiser co-chaired by three dynamic women— Joann Leatherby, Pat McAuley and Judy Whitmore. Guests were invited to dress in old-Hollywood style recalling a favorite film actor, director, or period of choice. They did not disappoint.

Heidi Zuckerman, president and CEO of OCMA with Diana Martin and Joann Leatherby, co-chair of the Pacific Symphony Gala.
(Doug Gifford)

Philanthropists of the Year Valerie and Hans Imhoff were feted by loyal longtime friends and symphony advocates. Pacific Symphony donors are among the most dedicated citizens supporting the arts in Orange County. Their board members rank at the top of the list of local philanthropists. Among the distinguished are board chair John Evans with wife Ruth Ann, Michelle and David Horowitz, David and Darrellyn Melilli, Michelle Rohé, Scott and Leslie Seigal, Louise Merage, and Charlie and Ling Zhang, to list only a few. Guests praised the Imhoffs for their decades of commitment to the symphony. In 1994 the couple helped to create and establish the nationally renowned Frieda Belinfante Class Act music education programs. Class Act has served about 200,000 K-8 students in Orange County since its founding.

Additional donors making the Hollywood party an “Oscar winner” were Ellie Gordon, Jane Fujishige Yada, Abbas Mohaddes, Arthur Ong, Anoosheh Oskovian, Jo Ellen Chatham and Leora Aronoff-Sadacca among the sold-out crowd.

Those found mingling at the cocktail reception included Molly and David Pyott, Mary and John Tu, Linda Maggard, Roberta and Howard Ahmanson, Sandy Segerstrom Daniels with sister Sally Segerstrom, Gayle and (conductor-composer) Richard Kaufman. Also joining the crowd was PSO’s own maestro, the much-admired Carl St. Clair with wife Susan shared decades of OC memories over lavish hors de oeuvres such as caviar pie, Beef Wellington, smoked trout pâté and of course Oysters Rockefeller. Pure Hollywood extravagance.

The Pacific Symphony Orchestra Gala Co-Chair Judy Whitmore welcomes party-goers at 2022 event "A Night In Old Hollywood."
(Doug Gifford)

John Forsyte, PSO’s president and chief executive, ceremoniously applauded his assemblage for their support, welcoming them all back together in person following two years of COVID separation. The crowd settled, seated for dinner and were entertained by the incomparable John Tu and Friends Band, delivering the magic of Hollywood’s Big Band era in 2022 style.

Dining with close friends were Sally Anderson and Tom Rogers, Mary and Phil Lyons, Nancy and Rick Muth, Heidi Zuckerman, Giullo Ongaro and wife Cheryl, Florence and Ed Kim, and two very special guests of the evening, Olena Kriachko and Olena Suxho, both Ukrainian refugees resettling in the U.S.A.

“Charlie Chaplin” with PSO Maestro Carl St. Clair and wife Susan.
“Charlie Chaplin” with PSO Maestro Carl St. Clair and wife Susan.
(Doug Gifford)

In great Hollywood tradition, Broadway star Lisa Vroman made a surprise appearance, performing classics from the repertoire of the late Judy Garland including naturally, the showstopper, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” By the close of the evening, an impressive $2.3 million was raised.

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