Suzanne Goin, Adam Perry Lang, Chris Bianco, Valerie Gordon, and Bryant Ng are among the 100-plus stars at the city’s biggest food event.
Alex's Lemonade Stand Fundraiser Jimmy Kimmel
Credit: ABImages2018

Food, celebrity, and philanthropy often intersect in Los Angeles, and never more so than at the annual L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade fundraiser for children’s cancer research.

L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, co-hosted by culinary stars Suzanne Goin, Caroline Styne, and David Lentz, is widely considered to be the city’s best food event, a day that brings together chefs from the top restaurants in the city and far beyond. It’s always a beautiful and dramatic afternoon, especially during the live auction when MC Billy Harris and A-list chefs remind the crowd that money is being raised in honor of childhood-cancer victim Alexandra Scott, who famously set up a lemonade stand when she was four to raise money for children with cancer. Scott died in 2004, at the age of eight, after raising more than one million dollars, and her legacy is stronger than ever in 2018.

On Saturday at UCLA’s Royce Quad, Jimmy Kimmel offered an impromptu L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade auction item: dinner at his barn, cooked by chefs including APL’s Adam Perry Lang, Animal’s Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, and Providence’s Michael Cimarusti. As has happened before at this event, Harris ratcheted up the excitement and, once the bidding got high enough, the auction item was sold multiple times at the same price. In this case, it was three dinners at Kimmel’s barn, each sold for $100,000.

This was part of a record-breaking day that raised nearly $1.5 million as more than 2,500 people enjoyed food and drinks from 100-plus chefs, mixologists, and vintners. Goin (who is partnered with Styne at A.O.C., Lucques, and Tavern) served her beloved Spanish fried chicken. Lentz (The Hungry Cat) had wonderful fried oyster rolls in his booth, which also featured live sea urchin from Santa Barbara uni diver Stephanie Mutz. Like previous years, Lang sliced his popular short rib and had the longest line. New Orleans chef Donald Link repped Herbsaint well with excellent grilled boudin.

L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is an event that convinces many of the country’s best chefs to find time in their ridiculously busy schedules. The Kimmel dinners will also include two chefs who are in the middle of expanding their empires in new cities. Philadelphia pasta king Marc Vetri is working to open a Las Vegas restaurant, an outpost of Vetri Cucina, atop Palms this fall. Phoenix pizza legend Chris Bianco has teamed up in L.A. with Tartine’s Chad Robertson and Elisabeth Prueitt for Row DTLA’s forthcoming The Manufactory, which will start opening in phases this fall. First up at The Manufactory is Tartine Bianco, an all-day café and bar. Then Bianco will have his hands in the dinner-only Alameda Supper Club and a grab-and-go space known as The Market.

Los Angeles lemonade stand fundraiser Jimmy Kimmel
Credit: ABImages 2018

Part of the fun at L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade is that chefs use the event to try out new things and discuss big ideas. Cimarusti, for example, collaborated with Melisse’s Josiah Citrin on a tostada with clams and pork belly that we hope will be served at one or more of their restaurants in the future.

Dessert powerhouse Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections, who made lots of children (and adults) giddy with a generous spread of cookies, brownies, and other goodies, mentioned that she’s been testing out some sweets in a Big Green Egg. We’re not going to give away what she has planned just yet, but here’s a teaser: Gordon said that using a Big Green Egg can lead to something resembling a fried pastry. We think L.A. is going to like the results of her experimentation.

Cassia’s Bryant Ng delighted the crowd with his version of orange chicken, a sharply calibrated combination of crunchy, sweet, and savory. It’s exciting to see Ng, a chef with serious fine-dining experience who’s known for melding Southeast Asian flavors and a California point of view, play around with Chinese-American food. Ng and his wife, Kim Luu-Ng, who was in the booth working alongside him on Saturday, are in the middle of an important month of philanthropy. On September 24, the couple will host their third annual L.A. Chefs for Human Rights dinner at Cassia. Chefs cooking with Ng at this event, which will raise money for The People Concern and honor actor Martin Sheen for his humanitarian work, will include n/naka’s Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida Nakayama, Rossoblu’s Steve Samson, Taco Maria’s Carlos Salgado, and Rustic Canyon Family’s Zoe Nathan.

Food, celebrity, philanthropy, Los Angeles.