“It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since Suzanne and Bob Wright founded Autism Speaks,” L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said, kicking off the Autism Speaks to Los Angeles Celebrity Chef Gala Thursday night, proudly adding, “Today, Autism awareness is up 50 percent in America.”
Next up, the night’s host Conan O’Brien took the stage in the dimly lit, expansive blue room at Santa Monica’s Barker Hangar.
“Everyone take a second and smell this room!” O’Brien said at the inaugural celebrity chef edition of the gala where each of the 56 tables was treated with its own private chef. “It’s like Benihana for the one percent,” the comedian quipped, garnering much laughter from the packed crowd of hungry attendees who were served entrees like uni appetizers, duck and lobster with caviar rice.
O’Brien reminded everyone to save water at the event, in light of the state-wide drought in California. With a laugh, he cracked, “Ask yourself, could I be doing this with vodka instead?”
Enjoying cocktails before being seated, many entertainment honchos were schmoozing with the likes of honorary gala committee member “Tyrant’s” Howard Gordon, Fox television exec Jonnie Davis and co-chairs Chuck Saftler of FX Networks and WME’s Rick Rosen and Ari Greenburg. In remarks, Wright also thanked producer Dick Wolf, fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, NBCUniversal’s Steve Burke and Discovery’s David Zaslav.
Among the celebrity chefs cooking tableside: Akasha Richmond, Antonia Lofaso, Ben Ford, Brendan Collins, Eric Greenspan, Jet Tila, Mary Sue Milliken, Neal Fraser, Ray Garcia, Steven Fretz and Susan Feniger. “Today’s” Al Roker also served as an honorary sous chef for the 600-person audience, who engaged in an auction during the four-course meal and enjoyed a performance from Pink and Billy Mann. The Wrights also accepted a Humanitarian Award.
Culinary celebs and industry-ites joined for a great cause, but the real stars of the night were those touched with Autism, such as 13-year-old autistic chef Chase Bailey, who took center stage with his mother to share his story and let the attendees know that he baked 600 cookies for everyone to enjoy in their gift bags.
|Pictured: Chuck Saftler, Bob Wright, Suzanne Wright, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Rick Rosen, Ari Greenburg and Michael Rosen. (Photo by Chelsea Lauren/Variety/Rex Shutterstock.)|