With the help of 100 award-winning celebrity chefs, Autism Speaks raised $1.25 million at its inaugural Autism Speaks to Los Angeles Celebrity Chef Gala, which took place October 8, 2015 at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. More than 600 guests, including Hollywood’s top industry execs and celebrities Conan O’Brien, Al Roker, P!nk and Giada De Laurentiis honored Autism Speaks co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright and commemorated the organization’s ten years of progress.
View our coverage of the blue carpet, below.
Following a cocktail reception hosted by Wolfgang Puck Catering, the program opened with remarks from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who commended The Wrights on their accomplishments over the last ten years and thanked the organization for bringing the New York gala to the West Coast. He then introduced late night comedian Conan O’Brien, who brought the laughs as host of the star-studded fundraiser.
Today Show co-anchor Al Roker kicked off the “Fund-A-Mission” auction with Neal Katz, a young man with autism who communicates through speech-to-text technology via an iPad. Guests had the opportunity to support special Autism Speaks initiatives and bid on auction lots from Jenn-Air Appliances and Delta Airlines. Grammy®-award winning recording artist P!nk made a surprise donation of $50,000 towards the Autism Speaks iPads grant program which gives thousands of iPads to low-income families every year.
Guests dined on exclusive four-course meals prepared tableside by over 100 of Los Angeles top chefs including Akasha Richmond (SAMBAR), Antonia Lofaso (Scopa Italian Roots), Ben Ford (Ford’s Filling Station), Brian Malarkey (Herringbone), Jet Tila (Food Network) Joachim Splichal (Patina), Michael Voltaggio (Ink) and Nancy Silverton (Osteria Mozza). The full list of participating chefs is at autismspeaks.org/LAchefgala.
After a heartwarming speech by Curt Harper, a competitive surfer with autism, P!nk performed “Beam Me Up” (off her 2012 album “The Truth About Love”) with the song’s Grammy®-nominated songwriter Billy Mann, a music executive and a national board member of Autism Speaks.
Following P!nk and Billy Mann’s performance, Conan presented Autism Speaks co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright with the Humanitarian Award. “This award means so much because our work together is truly changing the future for 100 million people worldwide, maybe even more,” said Bob Wright. “We began as small groups, merged into Autism Speaks and now are collaborating with the World Health Organization and more than 70 countries. Moving forward will be about motivating and mobilizing our grassroots base everywhere. And here at home we are collaborating with Google on a groundbreaking genome project called MSSNG. It will give us more than the answers we need about autism.”
· On hand to assist with cooking were celebrity sous chefs Al Roker, food blogger Ayesha Curry (“Cookin’ with the Currys) and 13-year-old Chase Bailey, an aspiring chef with autism (“Chase ‘N Yur Face”).
· Celebrity attendees included Jordana Brewster, Karrueche Tran, Christopher Gorham, Anel Lopez Gorham, Chantel Jeffries and Janie Bryant.
· The “Fund-A-Mission” auction includes several Autism Speaks initiatives including a housing solution for people with autism, a summer camp for kids with autism and iPads for individuals who struggle to communicate. The auction lots also included a brand new kitchen full of Jenn-Air appliances worth $35,000 and a trip to Shanghai via Delta Airlines, the gala’s Exclusive Airline Sponsor.
· Making its blue carpet debut was the Toyota Mirai, the carmaker’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle available to Californians starting this month.
· WME’s Head of Television Rick Rosen, WME Partner Ari Greenburg and FX Networks President & COO Chuck Saftler served as co-chairs. Joining them was honorary co-chair Brian Kelly, Autism Speaks Chairman of the Board.
· Generous vendors contributed donations including 50 ovens from Jenn-Air, blue chef shoes from Pepper Gate Footwear, flowers from Kendall Farms and wines from Frank Family Vineyards.
Since its inception in New York, the Autism Speaks Chef Gala has raised nearly $8 million dollars for the research, awareness and advocacy initiatives of Autism Speaks. The 9th Annual Autism Speaks to Wall Street Celebrity Chef Gala will take place October 13, 2015. For more info, go to autismspeaks.org/chefgala.
Toyota and ION Media Networks served as Executive Chef Sponsors. Discovery Communications and NBCUniversal served as Chef de Cuisines Sponsors. Pastry Chef Sponsors included 20th Century Fox, City National Bank, Fox Audience Strategy, Fox Television Group, FX Networks, Google, Movie Po, Pepper Gate Footwear, Inc., Tommy Cares, Univision and Wolf Films. Many thanks to our Exclusive Airline Sponsor Delta Air Lines, Exclusive Appliance Sponsor Jenn-Air and Exclusive Media Partner Variety. View the full sponsor list at autismspeaks.org/LAchefgala.
View photos from the event at http://bit.ly/1jUIKKU. Photo Credit: Mathew Imaging