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IMG_3479I always look forward to gourmet feasts created by our local Orange County chefs, and believe me, those guys and gals are talented! One of my favorites is the annual fundraiser that event coordinator Kristin Martin orchestrates that is held at the Balboa Bay Resort and benefits different nonprofits each year. The charity receiving the nearly $300,000 net proceeds for their mission to break the cycle of homelessness this year was the Illumination Foundation at the “Table for 10” benefit. Kristin knows all the chefs, and this year she drew 25 chefs to volunteer their time and resources to create their signature cuisine tableside for 250 guests.  I have to tell you, not only was the food sumptuous but the table decor, with each restaurant vying to outdo the other, was stunning, with extravagant table linens, exquisite floral arrangements, the finest china and crystal, and special gifts for each guest.

The Balboa Bay Club & Resort’s executive chef Josef Lageder was Host Chef, and no one is more welcoming than Lageder, to chefs and guests alike. Don’t get me wrong, he wants to create an absolutely fabulous meal and is certainly competitive, but he is also one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Since his table was next to Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, where I was seated, I did sneak over a few times to sample his fare. His roasted veal rib eye with porcini mushroom risotto was divine!

Roy’s chef Blaine Villasin, a native Hawaiian, orchestrated a very creative menu, with each course representing a different island. Nearly all the courses were fish related and very tasty. We each departed with Roy Yamaguchi’s “Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii” cookbook, a delightful gift since I love to cook!

I want to make sure the participating chefs and their restaurants are mentioned, as everyone involved really gave it their all for the fundraiser. Kudos to honorary chef Yves Fournier from Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails, Brian Doherty from Bambu at The Fairmont Newport Beach, Lewis Butler from the Center Club, Marcel St. Pierre from Club 33 at Disneyland, Joe Magnanelli from Cucina enoteca, Austin George from du bois, David Shofner from Dublin 4 Gastropub & Wineworks for Everyone, Alfonso Ramirez from Pinot Provence, Jason Quinn and Ryan Carson from Playground, Louis Jocson from Red Table, Manny Gomez from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Paul Bauer from Sevilla Restaurant and Tapas Bar, David Fune from Splashes at Surf & Sand Resort, Marco Romero from Starfish Asian Coastal Cusine, Rayne Frey from Tabu Grill, Alfred Prasad from Tamarind of London, Casey Overton from The Loft at Montage Resort & Spa, Ashley Santo Domingo from Rock-It Bar at Whole Foods Laguna Niguel, Ryan Adams from Three Seventy Common Kitchen+Drink, Sean Ramirez from Tommy Bahama Island Grille, Michael Webb from Vue Restaurant, and Adam Navidi from Oceans & Earth Restaurant.

Illumination Foundation founder and CEO Paul Leon, who founded the nonprofit in 2007, stated proudly, “We have helped more than 2,000 homeless off the streets and into permanent housing with a staff of 43 full-time employees, who include nurses, doctors, social workers, and mental health and intense trauma therapists.” Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo’s Jack Toan, who is a five-year IF board member, shared that the cause was personal as his wife was at one point homeless when she and her family left Vietnam to emigrate to the United States. A performance by the Illumination Foundation Children’s Choir brought smiles and tears alike and when Eli Turetsky, President of Lamborghini Travels, presented each child with a Lamborghini model car, cheers erupted.

MC and auctioneer DawnMarie Kotsonis revved things up for the live auction, which featured many chef dinners, again, thanks to the generous chefs and restaurants, as well as a much-sought-after getaway to Disneyland Resort. My table mates Sam and Pamela Auriemma were one of two (it sold twice!) to buy it for $4,400. In a complete surprise, IF’s Katie Rootlieb, who is Director of Communications and Development, won the raffle prize, a pair of 18k gold diamond earrings from Black Starr & Frost. Guests departed with a stuffed grab bag of goodies, too numerous to mention, but many of them edible!!

Selected photos from Bob Hodson Photography