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!
Devin Alexander, Chef of NBC’s “Biggest Loser”
Media Personality, Healthy Comfort Food Chef, Weight Loss Expert, and New York Times Bestselling Author Devin Alexander is the Chef of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser”, Host of “America’s Chefs on Tour” on PBS, author of eight cookbooks including “The Biggest Loser Cookbook” Series, and Executive Chef of Devinly Decadence™ on Royal Caribbean Cruiselines. Devin’s unique approach to healthy cooking and her motivational personal story have landed her appearances on more weight loss and fitness shows than any other food expert or nutritionist in America. Devin has shared her secrets for unbelievably decadent yet healthy foods through frequent appearances on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Biggest Loser, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, The View, FOX, CNN, and others, and through over 500 magazine features including Prevention, Men’s Health and Shape. Having maintained her 70-pound weight loss for close to 20 years, she lives and eats her message: you don’t have to deprive yourself to be fit and healthy. For more information: www.devinalexander.com.
What is your favorite dish? I’m often spotted eating bowls of meatballs and bowl of garden fresh heirloom tomatoes – this Italian girl always goes back to her roots! And then, of course, I rarely go a day without a Devinly Delites™ Brownie or Muffin.
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.
Jessica Collins, Actress and Professional Chef
Jessica Collins is an Emmy-nominated actress and a professional chef. Currently playing no-nonsense attorney at law Avery Bailey Clark on THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, Ms. Collins is also a graduate from the pristine cooking college Le Cordon Bleu. A recurring culinary guest on CBS’s “The Talk” and Hallmark Channel’s “Home and Family”, she produces and hosts her own cooking show “Sugared” and has an entertaining food blog at jessicacollins.com.
Why is art important to you? Art is in everything I see and do. As an underprivileged kid myself growing up, I understand first hand the impact that the arts can have on a child. Having art in your life at an early age builds confidence, provides healing, and gives hope. As an adult, art continues to be the most satisfying way for me to express myself. Allowing and encouraging creativity in people of all ages creates endless opportunities for all of us.
What is your favorite food? Spaghetti Amatriciana… maybe because I’m part Italian, it’s pure perfection to me.
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.
Carole Dixon, The Carate Diet
Carole Dixon’s international career in film, television and publishing has led her around the world and her exotic escapades have all been documented in hundreds of global magazine, newspaper and web articles. Currently, Carole is the Editor-in-Chief of www.thecaratdiet.com – a luxury lifestyle site based in LA and the Editor-at-Large for Caviar Affair Magazine in the Bay Area. Other projects have included Editor of NBC’s The Feast; Wallpaper Magazine and their popular ‘City Guide’ Books; contributing writer for Departures, Town & Country, Rob Report, Angeleno, Malibu, Zagat and the N.Y. Post, among others, reviewing luxury 5-star resorts, Michelin-starred restaurants, wine country regions, spas, shops, interior design, art, jewelry and architecture. Carole was also the producer of TV program Food For Thought, hosted by AA Gill of the Sunday Times in London for many years.
Why is art important to you? Art provokes great conversations and welcome controversy while getting the creative juices flowing. A favorite piece can completely change my entire mood and open up a world of possibility. Besides food, this is one of the best ways we have as a culture to connect with our local communities as well as far-flung destinations.
What’s your favorite food? A good old taco and fortunately living in LA, there is a good Mexican restaurant or taco truck on just about every block.
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.
Josh Goldman, Soigné Group and Owner and Operator of Brilliantshine
Josh Goldman started his career in food & beverage while bartending in college. His immediate passion for the industry led him to pursue formal coursework with the Court of Master Sommeliers, where he earned the distinction of Advanced Level Sommelier. Goldman then honed his skills for managing front of house operations and creating elevated service standards for some of Los Angeles’ most acclaimed establishments. Under the helm of chef Walter Manzke,his role as General Manger at critically acclaimed, Bastide and later on at lauded French bistro, Church & State, was instrumental in earning back-to-back 3-star ratings from the Los Angeles Times.
In 2009, Goldman joined chef Michael Voltaggio at The Dining Room at the Langham, Pasadena, overhauling the wine program to complement Voltaggio’s innovative menu. In 2011, he would open Voltaggio’s flagship restaurant, ink., as General Manager and Beverage Director. Notably, ink. was awarded the title of “Best New Restaurant in the Country” from GQ Magazine and became a highly regarded establishment in Los Angeles’ exciting evolution of fine dining.
In 2012, Goldman would team up with mixologist Julian Cox to create Soigné, a boutique management and consulting group focused on beverage program development and restaurant/bar training, operations and management. Together, they have created unique and compelling bar programs for Circa in Manhattan Beach, Belcampo in Santa Monica and Acabar in Hollywood.
Goldman has won several bartending awards including a national championship through Cochon 555’s“PunchKings.” Additionally,Goldmanisconsistentlysoughtaftertojudgewine competitions around the country and currently is a part of the advisory board of the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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.
Freddy Vargas, Executive Chef of Scarpetta & Paninoteca
Freddy Vargas joined Scarpetta Beverly Hills as Chef de Cuisine in 2010 leading an award winning team of chefs, sommeliers, and servers while overseeing the day-to-day operations in the kitchen. He was promoted to Executive Chef in 2013. Earlier this year, he conceptualized an artisanal sandwich concept that became Paninoteca – which he oversees and operates right out of Scarpetta’s kitchen for lunch on weekdays.
Vargas began his career with Chef Scott Conant at Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach in 2008 where he spent one year as Sous Chef before moving to New York to work as Chef de Cuisine at the flagship location. Prior to joining Chef Conant’s team, Vargas held the position as a cook at David Burke & Donatella in New York’s Upper East Side from 2006 to 2007.
A graduate of the American Culinary Institute of New York in 2005, Vargas enjoys being a leader, but says it’s his relationships with the guests and knowing what they really like that allows him to truly be creative in the kitchen. In 2012, he was honored as on of Zagat’s 30 Under 30 in Los Angeles. Most recently, he won his episode of Esquire TV’s second season of Knife Fight.
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!