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Nip and Puck : O.C. Philharmonic Society's Vienna Week Donors Savor a Few Bites With the Master Chef Himself in Newport Beach

March 04, 1997|ANN CONWAY

The event: Chef Wolfgang Puck whipped up mouthwatering appetizers for donors of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. About 45 guests attended the Party With Puck reception Sunday at the French chateau-style Newport Beach home of interior designer John Benecke.

Someone's in the kitchen: Working with an army of smiling assistants, Puck adorned mini-pizzas with duck sausage, painted spring-rolls with apricot mustard, topped triangles of brioche toast with salmon and spooned beluga caviar onto new potatoes. And yes, he even worked the stove--frying up shrimp tempura to be drizzled with wasabi cream.

The Austria-born chef waived his standard $10,000 fee for the appearance, saying he was proud to attend a party that saluted donors to Vienna Philharmonic Week. The week features a performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra tonight and Wednesday at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. "I plan to attend the Tuesday performance," Puck said. "Vienna is known for its music--and . . . pastries."

No place like home: Relieved his new kitchen was completed in time for Puck's appearance, Benecke welcomed guests. "Just last Friday, 15 men were here" putting on the finishing touches, Benecke said. "We just made it."

With its antique terra-cotta tile floors, solid marble counters and Old World-style tiles, even Puck couldn't have guessed the kitchen was a few days old.

"A representative of Puck's came to the house five weeks ago to check out the kitchen," Benecke said. "He walks in and nothing is there--no floor, no cabinets, no ceiling, no appliances and he says: 'You're having Wolfgang Puck cook here in five weeks and you're living here too?'

"Puck is the best," Benecke said. "I hope he's here to cook breakfast."

Guest list: Event honorary co-chairs Helen and Dr. Edward Shanbrom; William Gillespie; Eva and Fred Schneider; Harry and Helen Reinsch; Richard Reinsch; Dean Corey; Rick Silver; Don and Eugenia Thompson; Doug and Dierdre Smith; Erin and Gary Lastinger; Fritz and Elaine Westerhout; Catherine and Mark Holland; Jane and Stan Grier; Tricia and Gary Babick; Billur Wallerich; Todd Russell; Barbara and Bill Roberts; and special guests Austrian Consul General Werner Brandstetter and his wife, Louise.

Bottom line: Party guests donated a minimum of $10,000 to help defray costs of Vienna Philharmonic Week, estimated at $500,000 by Dean Corey, executive director of the philharmonic society. Costs include last Saturday's Viennese-style gala, the orchestra's appearance fees (estimated at more than $100,000 per concert--"I'm really not allowed to say the exact amount," Corey said) and two post-concert receptions.

What's next: The society's next event will be the opening of Philharmonic House of Design in San Juan Capistrano on April 18. The event is open to the public, with tickets at $100, including tour and party. Premiere information: (714) 553-2422. The Design House will be open for tours April 19-May 18 (closed Mondays). Tickets are $15 until April 16, when they become $18. Tour information: (714) 840-7542.



Pianist and former "Entertainment Tonight" host John Tesh, here hugging Shari Esayian, was the featured speaker at a luncheon benefit sponsored by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra League. Tesh spoke of the importance of music education for children during his remarks Friday at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel in Costa Mesa. "Everybody deserves to have a music education and it's not happening," Tesh said. "Music education in the schools is falling apart." Tesh said he donates $1 from every ticket sold to his concerts to the National Coalition for Music Education. Asked by a luncheon guest how he and his wife, Connie Sellecca, teach music to their toddler, Tesh said it's with the help of television's purple dinosaur, Barney. About 150 guests attended the benefit, which netted $10,000 for the orchestra's music education programs for children. Esayian was benefit chair. For information about the orchestra league, call (714) 755-5788.

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