Two high-profile food events featuring celebrity chefs — one local, another featuring local talent — turn up the heat in the kitchen
By Michael Aushenker
Next Thursday will be a great night for philanthropic foodies.
Two high-profile Aug. 7 events — one along Santa Monica Beach, another in Hollywood featuring several Santa Monica-based establishments — mix haute cuisine, celebrity chefs and charitable causes.
At Santa Monica’s Jonathan Beach Club, Audi presents the fifth annual “An Evening on the Beach,” supporting St. Vincent Meals on Wheels of Los Angeles.
At the Hollywood restaurant Create nightclub comes Luckyrice, a pan-Asian food event sponsored by Bombay Sapphire East and also celebrating its fifth year, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Center for Asian American Media.
Billed as an evening of innovative Asian dishes paired with cocktails by star mixologists, Luckyrice is the brainchild of former fashion executive Danielle Chang, who holds similar culinary gatherings throughout the country. The event prominently features Chef Sang Yoon of Father’s Office in Santa Monica and Chef Jet Tila, who has appeared on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef,” “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen.”
New York, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami — “the chef participation is totally different [in each city],” said Chang, who gives L.A. an edge for its “proximity to Asia to import ingredients and its large Asian population contributing to the overall culinary landscape.”
Born in Taiwan and raised in Texas and San Francisco, Chang sees her endeavor as a cultural calling: “I was frustrated that people didn’t know the difference between Taiwan and Thailand.”
This event marks the third time Yoon organizes and hosts the event with Chang. Previous Luckyrice L.A. events took place in Culver City at The Bookbindery as well as at the Helms Bakery Building, where Yoon’s second Father’s Office gastropub and his Lukshon restaurant are located.
“The events sold out both years, which is why we’ve continuously sought out larger spaces,” Chang said. “We chose Create because of its huge outdoor area. We have a street food/night market area, indoor lounges and spaces.”
Chang’s goal has always been to showcase “a diaspora of Asian cuisine” representing Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other thriving L.A. communities. She relishes how “the chefs get to see each other, taste each other’s dishes.”
Yoon has been crucial to recruiting established and emerging chefs.
“He’s worked very hard to introduce us to all of the best restaurants in the area, and that’s helped us stand out,” Chang said.
At Luckyrice, Thai and Chinese cuisine is well represented by Tila, until recently a partner of The Charleston gastro-lounge in Santa Monica. A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu and California Sushi Academy, this Thai/Chinese food master (reflecting his mother’s and father’s heritage, respectively) worked for Steve Wynn’s Wazuzu in Las Vegas, where Tila also opened Kuma Snow Cream in 2013. The L.A. resident recently opened Pakpao restaurant in Dallas with a Mid-Wilshire eatery due in September.
“They curate some of the best Asian events,” Tila said of Luckyrice. “They include mom-and-pop restaurants, not just the big names, the obvious names.”
Tila grew up in Hollywood’s Thai Town. His grandmother ran a Thai-Chinese coffee shop in a Bangkok neighborhood where his father’s fellow countrymen from China lived.
“He’s really Thai food royalty,” Chang said.
Tila said these are phenomenal times for pan-Asian cuisine in America. From his vantage point, he has witnessed an explosion of awareness for the nuances of Asian cuisine nationwide, thanks in large part to food related TV programs.
“This is just the beginning,” Tila said. “From now into next year, Northern Thai food is going to be really hot. There’s an increasing demand for regional-specific food — people are chasing specific regions.”
With Chef Jet, bet that the drunken noodles creator’s oft-utilized Thai flavors peppercorn and lemon grass piques at Luckyrice, where Tila will fashion his five-spice pork belly scallion cake tacos and Bombay Sapphire versions of his snow cones.
“It’s kind of come full circle,” Tila said of the demand for “dirty” (authentic) ethnic eats. “People want their food dirty. They want that same food you can get in a hole-in-the-wall, but they don’t want that atmosphere. It’s almost like we have to train to make what grandma made again.”
The lineup for “Evening on the Beach,” includes chefs Dustin Taylor of Michael’s Restaurant, Jimmy Shaw of Loteria Grill and The Jonathan Club’s own Sally Camacho and Jason McClain, among others. There’s also a bevy of vintners and mixologist Marcos Tello’s cocktails.
This annual epicurean event began in 2010 as a spin-off from Meals on Wheels partner and Chinois on Main Chef Wolfgang Puck’s 28th annual American Wine and Food Festival.
Superba Food & Bread chef Jason Travi, 39, will be at Evening on the Beach alongside Superba head baker Jonathan Eng and pastry chef Lincoln Carson.
”We just want to keep it simple and summery,” Travi said of his offerings for the evening’s menu. “We’re going to be making panzanella — a bread salad. It’s usually done with bread, tomato, cucumber and onions, but we do it a little bit differently. There’s going to be wood-fired grills at the event, so we’re grilling the bread and mixing in stone fruit [nectarines, peaches and other pitted fruits], onions, almond and balsamic vinegar.”
Formerly a sous chef at Spago in Beverly Hills, Travi segued last year to help launch Superba Food & Bread, the latest from the group that also runs Superba snack bar, the Vietnamese street food-inspired restaurant East Borough in Culver City and PitFire pizza company throughout Los Angeles.
“The main goal is to help out St. Vincent’s,” said Travi, who used to do Meals on Wheels while employed by Puck for many years. “On top of that, to be able to cook on the beach — it’s hard to say no.”
Organizers of both events love the notion of uniting many of L.A.’s top chefs under one roof.
“It’s a Westside event and that means a lot for us,” Travi said. “And it’s a pretty great event, so it seems like a win-win for everyone.”
Luckyrice Los Angeles runs from 7 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 7 at Create, 6021 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Tickets are $88 to $150. Visit luckyrice.com.
“An Evening on the Beach” begins at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 at the Jonathan Beach Club, 850 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica. $160. Visit eveningonthebeach.com.