There’s that old adage that with privilege comes responsibility, and on a recent Saturday in Los Angeles, some of the country’s most popular chefs, wine and other taste-makers came together to prove this axiom true at Suzanne Goin and Caroline Styne’s L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade Stand. From the red and white checkered tablecloths and the bright Meyer Lemon decorations to the vibrant aprons and coordinated signs, the mood was inexhaustibly jovial.
Alex Scott set up her first lemonade stand at the age of four in 2000, and in a single day she had raised $2,000 for childhood cancer awareness. When she passed away from cancer (neuroblastoma) in 2004, her lemonade stand had raised over $1 million. To date, Alex’s Lemonade Stand has raised over $80 million—the donations serve fund over 450 research projects, create travel programs for the families of children who are receiving cancer treatments, and provide additional resources to people affected by childhood cancer.
Held in Los Angeles, the charitable event was a veritable “who’s who” of chefs and tastemakers alike from around the country. Michael Anthony of the famed Gramercy Tavern repeatedly took the time to chat with aspiring chefs and signed their books in between serving up an immeasurably refined borscht. Chris Bianco delighted guests with a pistachio and red onion white pizza that was flawlessly seasoned and nothing short of light: the olive oil he used tasted woodsy, the nuts tasted were buttery and the caramelized onion perched delicately on a crisp bed of yeast that melted into a smile the moment it hit your tongue.
And let’s just take a moment to discuss what Jonathan Whitener of Animal did to a chicken leg and some slaw! Let’s talk about how, like a good one-night stand, we’re still smiling and tasting it on my lips the next day. Whitener’s leg was a refreshingly light take on a dish, in which perhaps a lesser chef would have compromised with a fancier take, but Whitener kept it simple: the skin popped crisply in the mouth followed by a sensual reveal of moist meat that simultaneously reminded one of down-home BBQ and exotic Hawaiian flavors. The slaw wasn’t wilted and it didn’t reek of heavy white mayo. It was unpretentious and remained a strong and crunchy foundation to the leg. Speaking of foundations, let’s revisit what Steve Sampson of Sotto built with lamb meatballs and kale—despite the weather being in the high 70s and mere days before the Fall Equinox, Sampson put together a dish that was comforting and familiar. Roy Choi and his Kogi Truck, the unofficial food consigliere of Los Angeles, stood under direct sun and never once wavered. For five-straight hours, Choi smiled and talked with people as he handed them his renowned take on fusion tacos.
It would take up countless space on the internet to describe all that was at L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade Stand, and these few comestible mentions don’t even begin to tap into the mouthwatering tidbits, welcoming chefs, mixologists, wine and beverage-makers who were the charitable rockstars of the day. But, to name few, there was the affable Bruce Kalmon of Union (L.A.’s golden child), the charming Ludo LeFebvre, and the unabashedly likable David LeFevre. Jeff Fischer of Habit Wine fulfilled the title of LLCoolJ as he hammed it up for the masses. Topanga’s own reigning wine queen, Sandy Garber, and one of Sonoma’s newest “It Boys,” Adam Mariani of Scribe Winery were there. Even the smiling and ceaselessly busy, Amy Christine of Holus Bolus broke from her rigid Harvest schedule to lend her support. The Bruery and mixologists Eric Alperin and Max Seamen showed up too.
Taking their privilege and access to food and celebrity alike seriously, the culinary community asked people to step up. In a town that’s often tainted by words like “flakey,” and “materialistic,” Angelenos proved those titles wrong. They came in droves and they arrived on time. And in giving back, L.A. truly fulfilled the event’s eponymous title.