By Chelsea Martell, Events Coordinator
Taste of Venice, which will take place on Sunday, September 14th (tickets are on sale now!) is an exciting opportunity for our organization to collaborate with our culinary neighbors and host an event in the community we call home to raise vital funds for our arts education programs. Taste of Venice, originally a fundraiser for Inside Out Community Arts, another Venice-based organization we acquired this summer, is an afternoon where local chefs open their doors for a unique tasting experience and a great cause.
New to the event this year is the addition of a Tastemaker committee comprised of culinary experts from throughout Los Angeles. The Tastemakers will lead the Tasting Tour portion of the event, which will consist of well-known Abbot Kinney restaurants providing our guests samples of their favorite dishes. Our Tastemakers will provide their expert insight into the food community of Los Angeles, as well as the dishes being sampled throughout the night.
As a thank you, we wanted to include a special feature about some of the Tastemakers who are part of this year’s event, as well as share why arts education is so important to them. We are grateful for their work and for being a part of Taste of Venice 2014!
Gary Baum, The Hollywood Reporter
Gary Baum is a senior writer at The Hollywood Reporter, where he covers the intersection of the entertainment business and Los Angeles, with a focus on cultural issues and investigative features. His dining stories have ranged from an exploration of the industry’s enduring appetite for investments in risky restaurant ventures to an oral history of Beverly Hills’ The Grill on the Alley. He also writes The Hollywood Reporter’s Hot New Restaurant column.
Why is art important to you? As John Updike put it, “What art offers is space – a certain breathing room for the spirit.”
What is currently your favorite dish? Right now, grilled stone fruit with burrata.
Challen Cates, Actress and Wine Producer, Challen Winery
Challen Cates is an actress of stage and screen (A Million Ways to Die in The West, Big Time Rush) as well as a producer of award winning Pinot Noir – Look for her own personal label in wine shops and restaurants this fall, Challen Winery. She is currently on stage in “Is There Sex After Marriage” at the Two Roads Theatre.
Why is art important to you? Art is a life force that keeps me inspired, inquisitive and passionate.
What is your favorite food? Chocolate pot de creme.
Antonio Diaz, Founder of Life & Thyme
Antonio Diaz is the founder and editor in chief of Life & Thyme, an online magazine documenting food culture with a storytelling sensibility. Using the food industry as a canvas, Antonio and his band of creatives at Life & Thyme strive to create beautiful stories through the written word, films, and photography about the people that feed us. When he’s not writing or documenting, you’ll often find him eating tacos or drinking cortados.
Why is arts important to you? Art is important because it’s our way of putting imagination into reality.
What is your favorite food? The taco. It doesn’t really matter what kind of taco, as long as it’s a taco. You can put anything onto a tortilla and make it a taco. Everyone always seems happier while eating tacos.
Julie Retzlaff and Whitney Flood, Co-Owners and Chef of Muddy Leek Restaurant
Julie and Whitney opened their catering company Bon Melange Catering in 2006, building it from the ground up for 6 years until they felt ready for the plunge of the crazy Los Angeles restaurant scene. In 2012 they opened Muddy Leek, which was an extension of the underground dinners they had held as part of their catering business. Their Muddy Leek restaurant abides by the same practices as their Bon Melange Catering: farm to table, delicious food, and all prepared by hand.
Why is art important to you? Art is important because it expands your mind, brings up memories, creates new experiences, and challenges perceptions. Art can also be very healing, therapeutic, and most importantly it can spark creativity! Art brings people together. We use to do dinners around art before opening the restaurant – all over LA – in galleries, backyards, print shops, studios, etc.… It was amazing!
What is currently your favorite dish? Thai food hands down – we love how they take simple ingredients and create such flavorful meals with them, and how the balance and texture of every dish is well thought out. The basis of their cuisine is how we like to approach every dish. Not necessarily with the ingredients, but the mindset of balance.
Judy Han, Corporate Executive Chef of Mendocino Farms
As the Corporate Executive Chef of Mendocino Farms, Chef Judy continually pushes the limits on how to make ‘just another sandwich’, and designs innovative, soulful sandwiches, salads, and sides that use the best, seasonal ingredients from the restaurant’s local artisan farmers and ranchers. Han’s first job was at Lucques under Suzanne Goin, where she learned the virtues of working with local vendors who produced organically grown sustainable foods, after which she went on to work in some of LA’s finest kitchens, including Sona, Grace, Koi, and Literati II, before joining the Mendocino Farms team in 2007. When the passionate, energetic Han is not in the kitchen, she loves traveling and spending time with her husband and two children.
Michele Gan, Owner of Serves You Right! Catering
Many elite Angelinos & Hollywood celebrities know Michele Gan as the go-to caterer for their private soirees and dinner parties. A 1993 graduate of the California Culinary Institute, Michele’s background consists of 20+ years of experience in the food service industry. Focusing on seasonal “California Cuisine”, she has become one of the most sought-after caterers in Los Angeles.
Why is art important to you? I believe arts education is crucial to a child’s development. Every day I encourage my daughter to create, dance, explore, and express herself! Throughout my career in catering and event planning, I am constantly reminded of the value of a creative mind and an artistic approach to food and event design. I support P.S. ARTS because I know I’m not only enriching the lives of children today, but also contributing to a beautiful future.
What is currently your favorite dish? My philosophy is that food is best when it’s fresh, and not over handled. Although I appreciate new trends and molecular gastronomy, I most enjoy a freshly shucked oyster or a beautiful pan-seared piece of seasonal fish. I also believe that tradition is key. Therefore, if it’s lunchtime you’ll find me at the Apple Pan!
Adam Gertler, The Food Network
Adam Gertler is a chef and television host. He was a finalist on The Food Network’s Next Food Network Star and host of Will Work For Food and Kid In A Candy Store. He is the “wurstmacher” (maker of fine sausage) for Dog Haüs restaurants and the host of FX Movie Download on the FX network, a show that presents movies with behind-the-scenes features.
Why is art important to you? Growing up, the arts were what saved me. From a young age, I knew I had no talent for athletics and I often got in trouble for being a class clown and a daydreamer. When I discovered the arts, particularly theater, my life instantly had a purpose. Theater and the performing arts made me feel like I had a place in the world, like I belonged to a secret club, and that helped me through all the awkward stages of my development.
Alan Jackson, Chef and Founder of Lemonade Restaurant Group
Chef and Founder of Lemonade Restaurant Group, Alan Jackson has helped redefine the fast casual dining segment in Southern California. The idea for Lemonade came from the ongoing question, “What’s for dinner?” He realized that the options for a quick bite or take-out were limited, and not particularly healthy. So he sought to create a chef-driven, relaxed approach to contemporary California cuisine. Lemonade offers fresh, healthy food made from seasonal ingredients and caters to people looking for a quick lunch or “grab and go” dinner. Since the opening of its flagship location more than six years ago, Lemonade has opened thirteen additional locations throughout Southern California and most recently Dubai.
Catherine McCord, Founder of Weelicious
Catherine, mom to Kenya and Chloe, created Weelicious.com in 2007 as a platform to show parents around the world how easy and beneficial it is to expose children to wholesome, delicious homemade food. After personally struggling with how to feed Kenya, Catherine recognized a need for realistic and nutritious recipes for parents using minimal ingredients that are fully loaded with flavor. Weelicious now houses more than 1,200 original recipes and more than 230 videos. Catherine inspires her community with ingredients that are readily available and recipes that are fast and easy. Once a day, Weelicious debuts a new recipe or tip as well as a how-to cooking video posted each week to provide a wealth of cooking information for families.
In addition, Catherine is on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network and has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live. She also has a monthly column in Parents Magazine and Huffington Post.
Why is art important to you? Art has always been a way for me to channel my energy. I became passionate about cooking because I look at it as edible art. Art is such an amazing way to express yourself and feelings.
What is your favorite food? Figs.
Matthew Poley, Chef of Heirloom LA
Originally from Clarkston, Michagan just outside Detroit, Executive Chef and Co-Owner Matt Poley began “catering” at an early age, cooking for friends and family at high school tail-gate parties before football games. In 2004, he moved to Los Angeles, where he was classically trained by Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria and from there, sent to intern at the two-star restaurant, Vissani, near Orvieto, Italy. Centrally based on a small farm and completely self-contained, this was where Matt learned the value of personally knowing where he sources his ingredients. Matt continues this tradition at Heirloom LA, seeking out small farms and humanely raised livestock for the fresh ingredients in his dishes.
Why is art important to you? Art is important to me because so often people call food art. As Tara likes to say, “You can’t hang it on the wall,” but certainly it can be artful and I am delighted to see food plated so artfully now at some of my favorite restaurants.
What is your favorite food? Favorite food has to be LASAGNA!
Kate Roland, LA Brunchers
Kate Roland is a co-founder of LABrunchers.com, a website dedicated to all things brunch. Along with fellow co-founder Leah Smith, these LA Brunchers are Los Angeles’ one and only brunch gurus. Their website features local restaurants with exceptional brunches, focusing on supporting restaurants highlighting farm fresh ingredients, locally sourced items, and of course, delicious cocktails.
Why is art important to you? Whether it is a book you cannot put down, a painting that moves you, or a meal you talk about for weeks to follow, artistic expression allows you to escape the mundane if even for a moment. It is also something you can enjoy with a cocktail in hand – one of our favorite things about brunch.
What is currently your favorite dish? Since mimosas are not an option, our favorite food has to be eggs. From crab cake benedict to croque-madam, you can find us eating this brunch staple at any time of day.
Dana Slatkin, Beverly Hills Farmgirl, Chef and Owner of Beverly Hills Farmers Market, Inc.
Dana Slatkin is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, cookbook author, food writer, and cooking class instructor in Los Angeles. As the Beverly Hills Farmgirl, Dana teaches a popular series of cooking classes in her home, runs a pop-up shop and online store, and writes a weekly blog, 90210farmgirl.com. She is currently at work on a food-obsessed television show.
Why is art important to you? Art informs everything I aspire to do well, from cooking to teaching to producing to parenting. Words often fall short in helping us express ourselves. That’s where art comes in. Life would be awfully drab without art.
What is your favorite food? My favorite foods are dirty chai lattes, creamed spinach, cheese with crusty bread, and fruit cobbler.
Jennifer Sommer, Sommer Dish and West Coast Correspondent Food & Wine
Jennifer Sommer believes everyday is a fresh opportunity to discover the world through food and shares her favorite finds on her website, sommerdish.com. With an extensive career in publishing, she currently acts as Food & Wine magazine’s West Coast Correspondent, writing and reporting for the New York-based, award-winning editorial team. Additionally, she acts as an advisor to many lifestyle brands and start-ups, including Santa Monica-based Tastemade, while placing a priority on giving back to her community. She currently resides in Pacific Palisades with her equally food-obsessed husband and their two sweets-obsessed daughters.
Why is art important to you? Art is important to me because it has played a large role in my family’s history, allowing family members to capture timeless moments in a way not possible with words. My youngest daughter is a budding artist and I want her to know a world where art is valued, accessible, and can create opportunities for all.
Drew Hubbard and Ben Waters, L.A. Foodie
Drew founded L.A. Foodie in 2008 with the intention of blogging and reviewing the dives and shacks that make-up his favorite spots in Los Angeles. Drew writes many of the reviews and posts on the blog, provides many of L.A. Foodie’s tweets, and joins Ben Waters on the #LAFoodiePodcast.
Ben was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, which means he can survive on barbecue sauce alone for up to three weeks. Ben enjoys taking pics of his food and posting them on Instagram, reviewing new restaurants, and sunsets (alcoholic or otherwise). He also produces & co-hosts the #LAFoodiePodcast as well as the occasional YouTube video.
Why is art important to you? The creation and enjoyment of art encourages abstract thinking. The creative process is fun and rewarding, plus it helps foster the development of problem solving skills. In short, art makes you better at life.
What is currently your favorite dish? Not much beats a great hamburger.
In addition to the list, we are also extremely excited to have Challen Cates, Nick Liberato, Lulu Powers, and Jon Shook on our Tastemaker committee. We look forward to seeing you on September 14th!