March 16, 2018 – Voice of OC
Orange County’s most prestigious culinary fundraiser, the Illumination Foundation’s OC Chef’s Table 2018 presented by Disneyland Resort, returns to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa on Sunday, March 18th.
The event includes a cocktail reception, live entertainment, silent auction, and even table décor that jostles for first-place pageantry. Joined by L.A.’s Celebrity Chef Jet Tila, each participating chef is responsible for his or her own 10-top table of patrons, creating an encapsulated “atmosphere,” from table décor, to lavish courses and cocktails prepared tableside.
Proceeds from this year’s OC Chef’s Table 2018 will go to the construction of the nation’s first Recuperative Care Housing Site for children. Working hand-in-hand with CHOC Children’s Hospital, Illumination Foundation’s recuperative care program will be a safety net for unstably housed or homeless children who are recovering from an illness or medical procedure.
Tables and individual tickets for OC Chef’s Table are still available at: ifhomeless.org/occt2018
32 of Orange County’s Acclaimed Chefs
The OC Chef’s Table Hosting Chef is, again, Disneyland Resort’s Culinary Director of Signature Restaurants, Andrew Sutton.
“The chefs love the camaraderie they feel when they participate in this event,” said Sutton. “The real win, though, lies in putting our combined efforts toward such a great cause.”
OC Chef’s Table has tapped top talent from 18 cities, spanning every segment of Orange County, from Brea to San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente. While many former participants such as Co-Executive Chef Gino Buonanoce of Antonello Ristorante and Executive Chefs Stephan LaFountain and Magellan Moore of Mastro’s Ocean Club were happy to return again, this year’s roster introduces a number of newcomers.
“It’s such an honor to be a part of this circle of chefs,” said Chef Arthur Ortiz of Skyloft Laguna Beach. “And, there’s really no better reason for us to all join together. Homelessness is all around us, in every city of Orange County. We can look to government or agencies and expect them to help these people or take care of the issue, but nothing’s really going to change until we all take on this responsibility with an understanding that these people are our people.”
Another first-time participant, the 1-year-old success story, Trevor’s at the Tracks in San Juan Capistrano, echoes similar sentiment. “We’re definitely seeing more homeless people here in San Juan,” says Owner Trevor Baird. “It’s heartbreaking and it can seem overwhelming, but here’s our chance to act locally, from a grass roots level, and change this – permanently. That’s what our restaurant’s mission is all about. Illumination Foundation’s invitation is perfect timing and a perfect combination for what we’re committed to doing here in our own town.”
A Chef Who Experienced Homelessness Firsthand
Executive Chef Leo Razo of Laguna Hills’ Villa Roma might have the closest connection to the issue of homelessness as his Sous Chef he’s bringing to the event, Justino Hernandez, was homeless at one time. “He didn’t have a car, so someone would always give him a ride home,” said Leo’s wife, Theresa. “He would tell people to just drop him at the corner where his house was, but we finally figured out that he was sleeping in the bushes behind the houses.”
As Justino struggled with addiction issues and absenteeism from work, Leo refused to give up on him. “He used to tell me, ‘There’s an angel in him,’ and he just didn’t let go,” said Theresa.
Today, Justino has his own apartment, recently got married and is putting his youngest brother through school.
Illumination Foundation primarily focuses on helping homeless families. Today, there are more than 32,000 Orange County children living in “tenuous” housing (i.e. cars) or homeless shelters.
“The most vulnerable homeless population is that of families,” says Illumination Foundation CEO & President Paul Leon. “We receive about 60 calls each week from families asking us for help. This week, we were able to take in 10 babies with their parents, but we had to say ‘no’ to 15 others who asked.”
The County’s First Emergency Housing for Struggling Families
Last year, the Chef’s Table event raised more than $650,000, which allowed for the completion of the Illumination Foundation’s first Theriault Emergency House, a Stanton-based home that takes in homeless families with at least one child or pregnant woman. It houses nine families at a time with large private bedrooms and baths for each family, new laundry facilities on both floors, a community kitchen and living room, and a child’s wonderland in a fenced, grassy yard.
Most families stay for about a month, working daily with case workers, doctors and local hospitals to get their lives and health back on track. At month’s end, families are helped into permanent housing solutions or bridge housing while they seek out permanent residence.
“Our only mission is to protect these people and treat them with the compassion, dignity and respect they deserve,” said Leon. “We have no other agenda.”