There’s just something about the creation of a meal that is both soothing and magical. At the Haggerty Kitchen Center on Mockingbird, it came together for the Celebrity Chef Luncheon Tuesday, February 28. As Los Angeles-based James Beard Foundation 2014 Outstanding Chef Awardee Nancy Silverton prepared for a demonstration, the sold-out crowd including Honorary Chair Sara Fraser Crismon, Paula Lambert, Rena Pederson, Caren Prothro, Mary Martha Pickens, Fanchon and Howard Hallam, Anne Leary, Cathy Buckner and Lucian LaBarba with Christina LaBarba gathered. Paige McDaniel proclaimed, “This is one of my favorite events.”
But before things got started and folks checked out the silent auction items, Empire Baking Company’s Meaders Ozarow recalled her childhood with her creative mother. The twosome would drive in from Abilene and visit NorthPark Center with its Magic Pan, Carriage Shop and Neiman’s. It was her mother’s creative spirit that both baffled Meadows and planted the seeds for her own talents.
But all too soon, the program was underway with VNA Board Chair Janet Ryan revealing that it was also President/CEO Katherine Krause’s birthday. Instead of blowing out candles on a cake, Katherine focused on the importance of the fundraiser that would provide funding for the Meals on Wheels and Hospice Care programs.
Katherine told of heart-wrenching numbers and stories about the people served by VNA’s Meals on Wheels program. For instance, 65% of the 4,600 home-bound and in need of the service are women. Of that number, 14 are more than 100 years old. The oldest is 105. Katherine shared the story about hospice-client Priscilla Hartman, who had just recently died at the age of 107. She had started using Meals on Wheels in her 90s. While others her age had found a comfy couch to retire to, she had discovered a new life literally by volunteering at Parkland holding newborn babies until her retirement at the age of 92.
Speaking of hospice, Katherine reminded the guests that Medicare covers hospice care for those over 65 years of age. On the other hand, VNA’s Hospice Care is able to step up and help those under 65 in need of hospice care.
Next up was VNA Director of Development Chris Culak, who reported that each year VNA has to spend about $300,000 to replace the kitchen equipment that provides 6,000 meals daily. He then directed the attention to a kettle displayed on the terrace that was the size of a small car. It carried with it a price tag of a SUV — $40,000. But it alone can produce 1,800 meals. Chris then made the request that people donate to the Kitchen Fund to help replace the equipment.
But the day’s program wasn’t to focus on the deeds achieved daily by VNA. Its focus was Nancy, who had also been heavily involved with Meals on Wheels in LA.
Despite having more experience and credentials than could be put into that kettle, Nancy walked the room through the creation of her Kale Salad with Ricotta Salata, Pine Nuts and Anchovies. She emphasized the fact that despite 21st century techie tools found in many kitchens, she still prefers some old favorites like her zest grater. She also stressed the importance of fresh ingredients. Despite the initial eye shifting by some members of the audience at the thought of kale and anchovies being tasty, they changed their tunes when a parade of servers presented plates with the salad to kick off their family-style meal made up of recipes (Flattened Chicken Thigh with Charred Lemon Salsa Verde; Pasta Salad with Bitter Greens, Parmigiano Cream and Guanciale; Oily Galicky Spinach; Glazed Onions Agrodolce; Bean Salad with Celery Leaf Pesto; Marinated Lentils; Slow-roasted Roma Tomatoes with Garlic and Thyme; Marinated Roasted Sweet Peppers; and Four-layer Salted Chocolate Caramel Tart) from Nancy’s recently published cookbook, “Mozza At Home.” Organizers were so smart. In listing the various items on the menu, they also included the page on which the recipe could be found.
One guest later admitted that she went home and tried the recipe, only to discover that it was just as good as what had been served at the luncheon.
In between stages of preparation, Nancy provided anecdotes like the fact that the VNA’s purchase of 400 copies of her new cookbook “Mozza At Home” as favors had turned out to be a record-breaker for her. The book was the result of Nancy’s realizing that after rising up the food chain and running six restaurants in the U.S. and Singapore, she had gotten sidetracked from her original love of cooking for friends. During a restful trip to Italy, she started rediscovering the joy of food, friends and fresh ingredients. She also realized that other hosts/hostesses found themselves in similar situations. So, she put together 19 menus with easy-to-follow recipes that could be prepared in advance and interchanged.
But her work wasn’t done. Later she would do another demonstration for the sold-out Celebrity Chef Dinner.