American Cancer Society celebrates 30 years of California Spirit at Sony Studios

The top mixologists and chefs donned the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City last night, in support of the American Cancer Society. Even Chef/Proprietor Thomas Keller, from Los Angeles’ quintessential bistro Bouchon Beverly Hills, was having a ball (literally, kicking beach balls and heiling over guests for “Free Food!”) at the Bouchon station made of ice chilling a bounty of succulent seafood, like shrimp the size of my hand.

Chef Thomas Keller, Allison Janney (Mom, West Wing, Minions, The Movie), Phil Rosenthal, Executive Producer of Everybody Loves Raymond. (Photo credit: Paul Hebert)
Chef Thomas Keller, Allison Janney (Mom, West Wing, Minions, The Movie), Phil Rosenthal, Executive Producer of Everybody Loves Raymond. (Photo credit: Paul Hebert)

The American Cancer Society put on the 30th California Spirit fundraiser raising money to provide free services for Angelenos with cancer, along with their families and caregivers. LA’s best chefs, restaurants, wineries, and mixologists surrounded the lot with endless foodie options, making me wish I had a second stomach. It was so nice to see the famed chefs in attendance showing off their creations.

James Beard Award-winning chef Rocco DiSpirito hosted the California Spirit 30. He is The New York Times bestselling author of Cook Your Butt Off!, and also appears as the Healthy Food Coach on ABC’s hit series Extreme Weight Loss. DiSpirito is the founder of an innovative food delivery service  In addition, Sherry Lansing, Phil Rosenthal, and Bill Chait were the honorary co-chairs at this year’s event. Diamond Sponsors included Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer and Mel Keefer, with Sherry Lansing serving as this year’s Platinum Sponsor.

Rocco DiSpirito (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)
Rocco DiSpirito (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)

Philanthropist Samuel Oschin was honored while a movie star looking doctor spoke at this special foodie fundraiser. The doctor shared with the audience the importance of men getting screened for colon and rectal cancer since he said, “There is no reason for the number of operations I perform in this day in age. In the last decade, colon cancer has decreased 25%. Don’t let fear be the reason you get cancer.”

Julian Cox, LA’s renowned mixologist responsible for so many cocktail menus in the City of Angels, mixed a Vanilla Cherry Sky potion with Greenbar slowhand white whiskey, Greenbar organic tru vanilla vodka, cherry heering & cherry bitters, with lemon. Other tasty LA offerings included wine and spirits from Malibu Vineyards, Mystic Hills Vineyard, The Wine House, Greenbar Distillery, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and LVP Sangria. Since I am not drinking alcohol, I couldn’t get enough of the Strawberry Mint Cucumber from the Art of Tea, while my mom enjoyed the Chamomile Clementine Spritzer.

Julian Cox (Photo credit: Paul Hebert)

Some of my favorite food bites included the warm butter lobster rolls (split top Rockenwagner Bakery Parker Rolls) from Knuckle + Claw, and the chilled seafood (Island Creek MA Oysters, Penn Cove Mussels, Coromandel NZ Oysters, Sweet Shrimp, White Albacore Tuna) from Bouchon. Healthy choices included LA’s finest Lemonade dishes, such as 1) Moroccan couscous, Washington cherries, French feta pistachio; 2)White nectarine, persian cucumber, english pea, watercress, mint; 3)Sesame ginger braised duck rainbow chard, cashew, pineapple, coriander; 4) Pickled nopales, jicama, peppers, blue corn tortilla, corn, lime.

Sides from LA's favorite Lemonade restaurants. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)
Sides from LA’s favorite Lemonade restaurants. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)

Redbird, one of downtown LA’s finest restaurants, showed off their Grilled Pork Chop with Apricot Mostardo & Hazelnuts. The Tavern in Brentwood served Thai Inspired Carrot Broth with Coconut Black Rice, Sambal and Diver Scallop. Spacca served Porcini Rubbed Short Ribs with Salsa Verde and Scallions. Studio City’s new Barrel & Ashes tantalized crowds with Smoked Beef Brisket and Watermelon Salad.

LA's highly rated restaurant in downtown LA, Redbird. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)
LA’s highly rated restaurant in downtown LA, Redbird. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)

Other seafood dishes included Marina del Rey’s newly opened Catch and Release releasing Bay Scallops on the half shell and a bite sized Lobster Roll with Old Bay.  The Peruvian restaurant Picca created a dish too pretty to eat with a mouth watering flavor combination of Ceviche Kokoda with Sea Bass, Shrimp, Sea Urchin Leche de Tigre and Coconut Cream.

Picca. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)
Picca. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)

While mingling and stuffing ourselves to exhaustion, the silent and live auction showcased incredible items, such as the $10,000 to start private cocktail reception and film screening at Sherry Lansing’s home, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, or dinner for 20 starting at $1,500 with Wolfgang Puck. A raffle ticket could even earn you a 2015 Ford Fusion Energi.

Thomas Keller
Writer Melissa Curtin with Mim Beardsley. Excited to meet America’s TOP Chef Thomas Keller. (Photo credit: Melissa Curtin)

Since my mother was in town from Connecticut, I was thrilled to bring her along to an event filled with California compassionate Spirit. We eventually found a seat after meandering to all the food booths. Under the tent, I smiled at the waiter and Voila!, a generous plate of ICDC donuts smeared in a variety of sauces, like spicy Mayan chocolate, appeared in front of her, to our chagrin.

Photo credit: Melissa Curtin

After listening to so many speakers share how their family members died of cancer, it seemed hopeful that with recent research and generous donors like the ones that were here tonight, that the fight against cancer has grown such momentum that one day it will be eradicated. For now, concerned compassionate citizens continue to do what they can to help make this disease a thing of the past. It was an honor to be part of the American Cancer Society’s Califonia Spirit celebrating 30 years of support to help fight cancer. Over the past 30 years California Spirit has raised over $15 million in the fight against cancer.

To see our favorite food bites from the evening, see our LaLaScoop Instagram.

For more than 100 years, the American Cancer Society has been leading the fight to end cancer. With the generous support from millions of people, the American Cancer Society has been able to translate their research findings into action and by doing so, has seen a 20% decline in US cancer death rates since the early 1990s. The California Spirit 30 fundraiser aims to raise funds to continue to support incredible research that leads to finding a cure for cancer over a spectacular evening filled with fantastic food, wine, and spirits from Los Angeles’ renowned chefs, top mixologists and premiere California vintners.


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