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Change Is in the Air

Benefit for Food Bank Takes on Different Atmosphere in Hotel Garden

October 19, 2000|ANN CONWAY

With bold strokes of showman-

ship, members of the Harvesters have transformed their annual benefit for the Second Harvest Food Bank into a gala extravaganza.

Gone was the standard silent auction held in a reception area of the Four Seasons in Newport Beach. In its place on Tuesday: hundreds of upscale items--from children's clothing to cashmere blankets--displayed under an 11,000-square-foot tent erected in the hotel's gardens.

And gone was the fashion parade staged on a ramp squeezed among ballroom luncheon tables. Instead, more than 500 guests watched the show produced by South Coast Plaza from seats arranged, theater-style, in another area of the tent.

The grand finale: a gourmet luncheon of herbed sea bass and pear tart presented in a hotel ballroom splashed with sprays of autumn leaves.

"We've been doing this event for eight years and it was time for a change," said benefit chairwoman Jeri McKenna.

The popular event had gained so much momentum, McKenna noted, that up to 150 people were turned away each year. Taking the fashion show into the gardens enabled 100 more people to attend.

Proceeds of about $300,000 from the benefit will go toward helping feed the 400,000 people in Orange County who are at risk of going hungry.

"Since Orange County is so affluent, many people don't realize there's a lot of hunger here," said Dan Rogers, chairman of the Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange. "For many, it comes down to deciding whether they are going to pay the rent or buy food."

The bank, using funds such as those supplied by its Harvesters support group, buys food in bulk and supplies it to 350 charitable agencies in Orange County.

"Each agency also pays a little bit to help us with our maintenance costs," Rogers said. "We think it's important that they also make a move to help themselves."

Guests were welcomed to the gala by Jennifer Van Bergh, co-founder with Jill Johnson-Tucker of the 50-member Harvesters.

The people served by the food bank are mostly made up of "the working poor," Van Bergh told the crowd. "They are families who have wage earners that come up short at the end of the month--50% of them are seniors and children."

Also among guests: Teddie Ray; Billur Wallerich; Catherine Thyen; Gail Kirwan; Joan Riach; Ann Smyth; Sherry Abbott; Kathy Schoenbaum; Carmela Phillips; Carie Ross; Anissa Guernee; Teresa Farrell; Wendy Enkema; and Robin McMonigle.

How you can help: The bank has designated October as Hunger Awareness Month. A "Scare Away Hunger" food drive has been organized with collection sites in Anaheim, Brea, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Orange, Rancho Santa Margarita and Santa Ana.

On Nov. 1, the food bank will sponsor its inaugural "Puttin' On the Ritz" benefit at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dana Point. Admission to the event--which will feature a champagne reception, fashion show and entertainment--is $150 per person. Information: (714) 771-1343.

Christmas, Southern-style

Never mind the same old turkey and Jell-O salad for your holiday table. How about roasted butternut squash soup laced with cilantro cream, sea bass with cranberry and papaya relish, and mashed pototoes studded with bits of andouille sausage?

Those were the items on the menu for guests at the Sharing Chefs dinner Monday on the Riverboat Restaurant in Newport Beach. Themed "Christmas in New Orleans," the dinner was part of a series designed by the A-Team support group of Share Our Selves, a nonprofit organization in Costa Mesa that provides emergency food, funds and shelter to those in need.

"This is the time of year when everybody starts thinking about holiday entertaining," said Kathy Thompson, founder of the series. "And when they attend these dinners, they not only get great food, but tips from the chefs on how to prepare it."

The secret to flavorful mashed potatoes? "Butter and heavy cream," said chef Joseph Flores, who once whipped up fare for celebs at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. "Fat is flavor."

The event marked the third consecutive year that Riverboat Restaurant owner Clayton Shurley has underwritten the cost of the event. "S.O.S. is a great organization that helps many people," he said. "It's just my way of giving back to the community."

The final dinner--a Latin New Year's feast--will be Nov. 13 at Habana Restaurant & Bar in Costa Mesa. The cost is $75 per person, including wine. Reservations: (949) 721-1660.

Ann Conway can be reached at (714) 966-5952 or by e-mail at

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