Hostess Mari Hooper kicked off the third annual Cooking For Kids competition with a planning session at her home in early December. Seven teams were primed to compete for the coveted title of the third annual Ultimate Chef Award, benefiting The Jonathan Jaques Children's Cancer Center at Miller Children's Hospital Long Beach.
This was not your ordinary planning session: Although the community luminaries, in their crisp chef's coats, were given the essentials of executing dishes at a spectator area on the beautiful waterfront grounds of the Maya Hotel, they were also given some not-so-subtle hints of friendly, yet competitive "trash talk."
The Dec. 6 Cooking For Kids event began with everyone perusing the colorful displays at each chef's table, enjoying the presentation, taste and creativity. The 250 guests and contestants alike "mingled and munched" on competitors' tasty offerings, along with tray-passed hors d'oeuvres and food stations offered by Maya.
That wasn't the only thing that was offered. Everyone had great fun in diminishing other chef's decorated tables. When one team was late for set-up, the team assigned to the adjoining station "decorated" for the tardy ones: They "secured" the space with yellow caution tape; affixed signs reading: "area condemned" and "dog friendly patio"; and placed a red tag for an unsafe building. The retaliating team placed a restaurant grade F on the suspect neighbor's space.
Competing for the top spot and paired with a child from the center were: "Team Deukmejian," former Gov. George Deukmejian and wife Gloria, competing for Danny Sweeney; "Team Berlin," Long Beach Fire Chief Mike DuRee and Blair Cohn, assisted by Dede Rossi (a contestant in 2012), for patient Berlin Gutenkauf; "Team Knabe," Supervisor Don and Julie Knabe, assisted by Anne Cramer and Lisa Ramelow, manning the Knabetini Luge for Sydney Waldrop; "Team Mr. Long Beach," Rick Lovell for Alexis Ortiz; "Team Chez Miller," Dr. Divya-Devi Joshi and Dr. Ted Zwerdling for patient Christiana Gilliland. "Team Cooper Cookers," Greg Gill and Graham Gill, Jeff Coburn, Shaun McCullough (of Lee & Associates) for Cooper Evans. Nurses Cat Lim, Lily Gonzales and Janine Rice formed "Team Pablo's Angels."
As guests roamed the seven gourmet stations, they voted (with their wallets) for their favored chef to win. While many voted online prior to the event, funds continued to flow, generating nearly $50,000 for children in cancer treatment.
Welcoming remarks were given by JJCCC Managing Director Renae Waestman-Furlow, followed by Brett Beck, major gifts office for the Memorial Medical Center Foundation. Acknowledged were committee members Nancy Monte-Frye, Hooper, Sande Rice and Dede Rossi. Judges Paul (Dana) Buchanan (of Primal Alchemy), Hotel Maya Head Chef Victor Guarez and Jake Hooper had the difficult task of selecting the winning team.
After much bantering and suspense, Hooper stated that "due to the difficulty in choosing a winner, the judges could not reach a decision." Loud gasps were heard throughout the crowd and it looked as if there might be an uprising.
Hooper recanted rapidly, and it was then that he assured the guests and the very anxious chefs that there was indeed a winner: Team Berlin's DuRee and Cohn, who stepped up to have their working chef's hats removed and were crowned with The Ultimate Chef 2012 hat. Their words of gratitude resonated throughout as everyone was reminded that the children were the real team winners.
Seen at the scene: Founding Medical Director Dr. Jerry Finklestein and Marilyn, Lou and Judge Joan Cassani, Ron Piazza, Carmen Perez, Jan and Bob Waestman, Marjorie and Bradford Hooper, Donna and Tom Bennett, Dr. Veronique Jotterand, Barbara and Alexis Ortiz, Ross and Sandy Riddle, Dr. Lisa Shane, Annie Santos, Sue Zwerdling, Amber and Pat Emigh, Karen and Dr. Jim Wells, Natalie and Eric Gutenkhauf, Charles Feder, Tomilee Gill, Nancy Becker and Randy Gordon, and Aimee DuRee.
PEO 'Garden of Stars'
Delightful bouquets of white marguerites served as centerpieces greeting the 200 women attending the Long Beach District PEO Reciprocity Bureau's Founders' Day celebratory luncheon held Jan. 26.
The theme of the event, held at the Petroleum Club, was "A Garden of Stars."
Reciprocity President Lucretia Knutson said, "Among the stars in the garden of the PEO Sisterhood are the strength of its membership and the excellent educational philanthropies for women that it supports."
The highlight of the luncheon was the attendance of members of the California state chapter executive board, introduced by Knutson, who also introduced Reciprocity past presidents, 50-plus year members and other special guests in attendance. Founders' Day Committee Chair Pat Pinckney introduced the members of the Founders' Day Planning Committee.
Harpist Ellie Choate of Chapter DJ in Glendale and vocalist Allison McGuire of Chapter DJ in Long Beach presented musical entertainment throughout the luncheon.
FYI: Seven young women on the campus of Iowa Wesleyan University founded PEO 144 years ago as a friendship society. Today, PEO, whose mission is to promote educational and personal growth opportunities for women, has grown into a diverse, widespread sisterhood for more than 250 million chapter members throughout the United States and Canada. The PEO educational philanthropies provide educational assistance through a variety of scholarships, grants and loans.
Seen at the scene: California state chapter officers: President Joann Weber, Vice President Juanita McKee, Organizer Connie Hunnell and Treasurer Gayle Welty. Board members: Pat Pinckney, Pat Taylor, Mary Bush and Pat Ramsburg were introduced during the program.
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