Mama's Kitchen presents the mother of all food festivals
by FRANK SABATINI JR.
Published - 05/04/15 - 08:13 AM | 5440 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sam (the Cooking Guy) Zien, who has a culinary cult following of his own, will lend his expertise to the Mama's Day extravaganza. PHOTO BY CHRIS BRAKE PHOTOGRAPHY
Sam (the Cooking Guy) Zien, who has a culinary cult following of his own, will lend his expertise to the Mama's Day extravaganza. PHOTO BY CHRIS BRAKE PHOTOGRAPHY
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What began 25 years ago as a humble fundraiser involving several chefs helping to spur donations for Mama’s Kitchen has today become the Cadillac of food events in San Diego.

The annual Mama’s Day culinary extravaganza, to be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. May 8 at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla, brings together the crème de la crème of local chefs and restaurants doling out their latest and greatest culinary creations. More than 55 of them are taking part.

“It’s a smorgasbord of tastes that is pretty much unequaled in San Diego,” says Mama’s Kitchen Executive Director Alberto Cortes, adding that last year’s event raised $150,000. The monies are used each year for providing nutritional support to men, women and children affected by AIDS/HIV or cancer.

Since its inception in 1990, the event has raised nearly $3 million, which also afforded the nonprofit agency a chance to move its kitchen and pantry from a basement church in Bankers Hill into a gleaming industrial kitchen in City Heights four years ago.

Food stations at the event dominate the hotel’s indoor pavilion. Grazing through the entire track requires a ravenous appetite, as guests are faced with gourmet preparations of meat, seafood, seasonal vegetables, pasta and eye-popping desserts.

Among the restaurants taking part from La Jolla is The Hake Kitchen & Bar, a newcomer to the event that will serve ahi tuna on brioche crostini with wasabi crème fraiche and house-made teriyaki sauce. The dish will be added to the restaurant’s appetizer menu in a few weeks.

The Hake’s managing partner, Ricardo Dondisch, says he was drawn to participating in the fundraiser because “the work that Mama’s Kitchen does in terms of food and nourishment is very important to San Diego County. And the event itself includes very respectable restaurants doing interesting things – and we wanted to be part of that.”

Coming onboard for the 24th year in a row is Chef Bernard Guillas of The Marine Room. Known in past years for ladling out his famous lobster bisque, he’ll instead provide sugar fixes to the crowd with elderberry panna cotta draped in spring berry compote, fennel crystals and candied almonds.

Whisknladle is also taking the dessert route with butterscotch budino (Italian custard) served with salted caramel and coconut cookies, while Piatti Ristorante & Bar slings caprese salad on skewers and grilled eggplant wrapped in goat cheese.

As for other La Jolla restaurants arriving with their chefs in tow, such as Café Japengo and Bernini’s Bistro, their dishes remain a secret.

Restaurants from the greater San Diego area taking part include Pacifica Del Mar, The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Great Maple, Café Champagne, The Red Door and many more.

“The event makes for healthy competition among the chefs, where they get to check out each other’s dishes while connecting with each other in a festive atmosphere,” adds Cortes.

Emceeing the evening is Susan DeVincent of KyXy 96.5. She’ll be joined by culinary host Sam (the Cooking Guy) Zien, who will demonstrate Asian-inspired fried rice griddlecakes and other dishes on innovative EVO grills in the VIP lounge.

The event also features a silent auction on a variety of getaway packages, concerts and cooking classes. Bidders can start competing for them now on their home computers and smartphones by visiting mamaskitchen.org and clicking onto the “events” page.

Cortes says over the past several years the event has attracted between 600 and 800 people. “Given the hotel’s spacious pavilion, we’ve never had to close the doors on anyone,” he adds

General admission to Mama’s Day is $125 in advance (online) and $150 at the door. VIP tickets are $250, which includes early entrance into the event at 5:30 p.m., plus a hosted bar and cooking demos by Sam Zien.

Hyatt Regency La Jolla is located at 3777 La Jolla Village Drive. For more information, call Mama’s Kitchen at (619) 233-6262.

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