The Crowd: Dinner is a fall tradition for SOS

"Twenty years of success committed to the caring and feeding of people is a moment of greatness long to be treasured," commented Karen McGlinn, executive director of Share Our Selves.

The 20th anniversary Celebrity Chef Dinner unfolded Oct. 9 at the Hilton Hotel, Costa Mesa, attracting a sold-out crowd coming to experience one of the most important dinner events on the Orange Coast.

For more than two decades the SOS Celebrity Chef Dinner has become a fall tradition that embodies the best spirit of philanthropy in Orange County. Citizens from all walks of life, wealthy and not so wealthy, come together to support a program that, day in and day out for 365 days in the year, works to support the most basic of human needs.

On hand for the special evening was Jean Forbath, founder of Share Our Selves, who was honored for 40 years of service to the organization. Forbath has been referred to as a visionary and an advocate for social justice, addressing the needs of the poor in Orange County.

Also honored at the event were celebrity chefs Alan Greeley and Michael Kang. They helped create the dinner concept 20 years ago and have been at the forefront of the annual event every year.

This season 15 premiere chefs joined forces to create a spectacular dining experience for more than 300 guests at an event that ultimately netted more than $259,000 to support the SOS Orange Aid Project. The Orange Aid Project collects retrievable food from restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and caterers and turns around and distributes the food to low-income residents. The 15 chefs created a five-course dinner paired with specialty wines. Each course was created by a team of local culinary experts.

"Chef David Man of the Island Hotel and Chef Ken Mukai of Yoshi Sushi prepared an appetizer course of delicate house cured and smoked salmon crepes as well as truffle macaroni and cheese that had people lining up for a taste," said Christopher Veitch, of Newport Beach, a young man attending the dinner who works in the law field but also has a cultivated knowledge of fine food and wine. "Mukai gave patrons a taste of fine Japanese cuisine with a selection of sushi rolls and a to-order sushi bar that one guest described as 'tasting as fresh as the ocean.'"

The first course of the extravagant dinner was created by Greeley of the Golden Truffle and Kang of 5' Restaurant. The famous pair of chefs served a shell fish escabeche with reserve lemon and cracked cerignola, which they paired with a floral 2008 Colombia Crest Gran Estates white wine.

Other participating chefs were Louie Jocson, Alessandro Pirozzi, Amar Santana, Franco Barone, Rich Mead, Carlito Jocson, Paul Squicciarini, Victor Cobral, with Bert Agor from Taps Fish House, Dennis Brask of Five Crowns, and Chad Krahling from The Hilton Hotel, who together created a main course of braised short ribs with a semolina polenta topped by a sweet and sour demi glaze.

Major sponsorship for the evening came from corporate donors including Taco Bell Corp., Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Rutan & Tucker, St. Joseph Health System, the Fred Siegel Foundation, and Ernie and Annick Klatte.

Committee members deserving recognition included Elizabeth Evans, Keri Follmer, Keith Lambert, Julie Larson, Bill Cowles, Mary Moyer, and Patty Nesbit. Also deserving recognition for their contribution were Karen Harrington, Helen Kinsey, Kris Olan, Louise Stewardson, Ashley Carlton, Kathleen Bruski, Gaye Besler and Maryann Beckman.

Television news host Conan Newlan, of NBC-4 TV in Los Angeles, handled the live auction duties with grace.

Share Our Selves has become one of the most comprehensive voluntary support agencies serving the poor in Orange County.

"The current recessionary times have created a tremendous increase in need. It is estimated that the population served by SOS is up by another 30% this year," said SOS advocate Karen Harrington.

The Orange Aid Project has the long-term support of prominent Orange County citizens Hal Rosoff, Marla Bird, John Martin, and Jonathan Blum.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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