Event - Wells Fargo "Table for Ten" Benefit for the Illumination Foundation

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the Grand Californian Resort at Disneyland was the home of hustle and bustle as the Grand Ballroom was being set up for a grandiose event. Wells Fargo, Disneyland Resort and the Illumination Foundation had come together for one cause and brought with them more than 30 of Orange County's finest chefs. The Table for Ten event seemed too good to be true - guests had personal chefs cooking for them table-side at uniquely decorated settings personalized by the chefs themselves. More than 320 guests were expected to congregate at special tables and help raise both money and awareness on the plight of the homeless in Orange County. Tickets for this event sold out quickly as its one-of-a-kind experience has been a draw for donors year after year. Prior to enjoying their exclusive five-course meals, guests imbibed and enjoyed themselves at the cocktail reception while perusing live and silent auction sheets, participating in activities, and mingling with others who were supporting the same cause.

Chef Adam Navidi of Future Foods Farm provided the cocktail reception appetizers in an organic and creative display along with tray-pass service. To emphasize his focus on growing food organically and even through hydroponics, Navidi decorated his tables with living plants and adopted a chic farm look for the servings of tuna poke, Santa Barbara salmon, Diamond Mountain bison rollers, veggie rollers, and lamb rollers. Charming miniature pots with logo-stamped markers gave the bites a wholesome feel. As we strolled in and out of the ballroom where the set-up was happening, we also couldn't help but notice the Disney motif running through the night including a pair of R2D2 Mickey ears on a sous vide arrangement. How apropos.

In addition to ticket proceeds, there were also ongoing live and silent auctions during the cocktail reception facilitated by volunteers and staff.  Dedicated to assisting the homeless in Orange County, the Illumination Foundation certainly were the recipient of much generosity. Their fundraising goal for the evening was greatly surpassed, and all of the night's activities led to $360,000 being raised for the cause.

We touched base with Host Chef Andrew Sutton of Napa Rose and could hardly tear our eyes away from his own table setting that was inspired by the wine country. From Napa Valley himself, Sutton used elements of olive branches, springtime mustard flowers, and intimate hanging lights to convey the feeling of comfort and being at home. The illuminated tree was a sight to see, and the color palette made me want to stay at this one table. The menu, though, was a strong persuader too - caviar cordial; ahi carpaccio with pineapple, fresh crab, mint, and cilantro; lobster with shaved truffles; lamb; and even a live sugar blowing to create globular pinata desserts that guests would have to smash.

Was it difficult to coordinate so many chefs? How did you pick them?
"All these guys are pros. I was not really worried about it. Most of these guys have cooked almost anywhere so I feel very comfortable with them - I mean, look at the room already. It's gorgeous. There is a totally different personality on every table. We picked the best chefs really. Their art speaks for itself. We were certainly not trying to exclude anybody either but there's a limit to the size of the room. Hopefully we'll be able to get in touch with every fine chef in the future. Everyone was excited to help out."

There was no limit to the creativity in the room that evening. Though cooking table-side for their guests, the chefs (we learned) apparently had been prepping all day so that dinner would just be finished in front of the guests rather than completely made from start to finish. After all, it was an event not meant to take hours. We were astounded by the ways that chefs decided to express themselves. One eye-catching table was the one by Ruth's Chris of Irvine which featured an enormous tree made via papier mâché by their very own talented managers. Framed inside with chicken wire and inserted with rod branches hung with miniature lanterns, the tree was part of the restaurant's bayou theme, a tribute to the restaurant's founding. Their menu included oysters, gumbo, steak, and bread pudding - perfect for their look and feel. Many other tables adopted floral arrangements with so many unique color combinations that it was obvious which restaurant did what.

One of the tables I particularly liked had classic viewfinders for every guest, presumably an homage to the Disneyland location! Not every table was floral though and as we navigated around the room, we spotted feathery elegance and demure Hollywood. If this is what the chefs would turn out for the tables, who knows how much attention to detail is in their restaurants? Below is the star-studded list of chefs:

  • Host Chef Andrew Sutton - Napa Rose
  • Marcel St. Pierre - Club 33
  • Alex Flores - Carthay Circle Restaurant
  • Franco Barone - Il Barone Ristorante
  • Vincent Lesage & Rachel Haggstrom - Waterline, The Balboa Bay Resort
  • Ashley Santo-Domingo - 24 carrots Catering
  • Sir Bruno Serato - Anaheim White House
  • Brian Doherty - Bambu at the Fairmont Newport Beach
  • Vittorio Lucariello - Beverly Hills Wilshire
  • Steven Mary - Catal
  • Lewis Butler - Center Club
  • Seakyeong Kim - Charlie Palmer
  • Vartan Abgaryan - Cliff's Edge
  • David Shofner - Dublin 4 Gastropub & Wineworks for Everyone
  • John Ledbetter - Lark Creek Newport Beach
  • Lindsay Smith-Rosales - Nirvana Grille
  • Dustin White - Orange Hill Restaurant
  • David Martin - Pacific Club
  • David Slay - Park Avenue
  • Louie Jocson - Red Table
  • Edgar Agbayani - Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine
  • Manny Gomez - Ruth's Chris
  • David Fune - Splashes of Surf & Sand Resort
  • Norberto Village & Rayne Frey - Tabu Grill
  • Casey Overton - The Loft at Montage Resort Laguna Beach
  • Pascal Olhats & Gregory Moro - The Pascal Experience
  • Imran Ali - Tamarind of London
  • Marcus Lage - Tommy Bahama Laguna Beach
  • Conrad Gallagher - Vanity Catering & Events
  • Thomas Trevethan - Vue Restaurant at Laguna Cliffs Resort & Spa
  • Adam Navidi - Future Foods Farm

Some menu items we spotted that evening - salmon rilletes, beef cheeks, spot prawn ravioli, rabbit confit, branzino, sunchoke fondue, veal tartare, Maine lobster salad, dungenness crab, chicory pudding, Peruvian chocolate souffle, prawn carpaccio, pistachio mousse, smoked ricotta agnolotti, suckling pig, blood orange creme, gumbo, lobster taco, truffled cauliflower soup, and even lobster espresso. If that does not get you hungry and eager for next year's event, I don't know what will. The chefs really pulled together all of their best showcase pieces for this wondrous Table for Ten night.

Oh and of course, we cannot forget the guest appearances of Mickey and Minnie who were dressed exquisitely for the evening as well. We just had to get a picture with the adorable couple. Congratulations to the Illumination Foundation for their fundraising success and the team that put the entire event together!

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.

Event & Table Sponsors: Wells Fargo, Disneyland® Resort, OCTV, Dining Out Magazine, Pandora Bakery, American Harvest Organic Spirits, Salomon, Manassero Farms,  Nestle Waters, Sidney Frank Importing Co., Sadie Rose Bakery, Addington Confections, Elegant By Design, Pimco Foundation, Ice Bulb, NYX Professional Makeup, Riedel®, Le Creuset, Jacques Cardin Cognac, KMPG, Armored Wolf, Barenjager Honey & Bourbon, Epicstyle.com, Chef’s Insight, Walkers Product of Scotland, Lette Macaron, Future Foods Farms, Patina Group, Armen Designs Newport Beach, Deagan Duchene, Don Davis, Kaiser Permanente, Mr. Lawrence Haynes and family, Mr. Rick Hopcraft and First American Title Co., Mr. and Mrs. Ripu Arora, the Curtis family, the Horstmann family,  the Scheinman-Toretto Family, Mr. Tim Sandis, West-Tech Materials, West Anaheim Medical Center and Bob Hodson Photography.