MASTERS OF TASTE Helping Homelessness

Last night I dined inside the Rose Bowl Stadium locker room for a preview of the 5th annual MASTERS OF TASTE. This premier outdoor food and beverage festival will once again be on the field of the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium on Sunday, April 5, 2020.

Food and beverage enthusiasts have the opportunity to enjoy a spectacular array of savory and sweet culinary items, and variety of non-alcohol and alcoholic beverages for one price.


This is the #yearofthewoman, as the Master Chef Host is Chef Vanda Asapahu of Ayara Thai. She is the first woman ever to host this successful fundraiser for Union Station Homeless Services.


Culinary host Billy Harris was the emcee of the evening introducing chefs, Union Station members and the great people behind the scene providing creative fare and beverages.


Last year’s host Executive Chef Michael Hung of Faith & Flower prepared the first course of the evening – an exquisite bite-sized, baked choux pastry stuffed with a savory mornay made with béchamel sauce with Gruyère cheese and truffles. He told a crowd of 85 guests, “We raised half a million dollars at last year’s Masters of Taste. He said he is putting his best foot forward to raise more than $500,000 for Homeless Services in 2020.


The second course was a smoked Icelandic cod Smorrebrod, prepared by chef Lene Flemming Houck from Open Face Food Shop. It was served with the most delicious housemade pickled vegetables.


Harris introduced Anne Miskey, the Chief Executive Officer at Union Station Homeless Services (USHS). She shared that “USHS permanently housed 1,200 homeless people in 2019 and that 97% are still housed and haven’t turned back to homelessness.”

She gave advice of how we can end homelessness – EAT. “Eating together connects people,” said Miskey. “Food is a common denominator all around the world. When you break bread with people, you touch and connect a fellow human being.” Miskey believes food has the power to welcome those in need.


Next chef Vanda Asapahu came out to talk about the third course she made with her mother – Nam Ya. “This is one of the most loved dishes in southern Thailand, and we used to eat it every weekend.” It’s a slightly spicy fish curry made with coconut milk and rice vermicelli, Dungeness crab, cilantro and fried basil.  Vanda may be tiny in stature, however this talented chef is fierce in the kitchen. Each dish she makes is prepared from scratch and enhanced with herbs and spices to ensure the boldest, most genuine flavors.


With each course a different pairing of OBVIOUS WINES was poured by Kristen Walters and team. These Estate wines are crafted through sustainably farming practices across vineyards in California, Chile, and France. What makes them distinctive is their labels. You don’t need to be an oenophile to understand the nuances of each wine.


Other beverages served were PATHWATER reusable/refillable purified water, and Petal Sparkling Beverage Blends. Around the table we selected one of each of the six flavors for taste tests. The tall and slim cans have a beautiful label and are packed with powerful antioxidants. There is Original Rose, Mint Rose, Lychee Rose, Elderberry White Tea Flower, Peach Marigold, and Lemongrass Dandelion.


The fourth course was a Ragout de Boeuf by Chef Kimmy Tang served with a taste of dark and bold Obvious #1 wine. Like a slow cooked beef stew, it was served with tender potatoes, carrots and a round slice of bread.


Over the last 4 years, Masters of Taste has raised over $2 million dollars to benefit Union Station Homeless Services in Pasadena. 100% of ticket purchases and upgrades are used to combat homelessness and rebuild the lives of families and individuals that are experiencing homelessness.

Click here for a list of the MASTERS this year participating. Click here for information on tickets for the April 5, 2020 culinary extravaganza to help those in need move into a permanent home.

Preview of the 2019 Masters of Taste

To kick-off ticket sales for Masters of Taste 2019, I was recently invited to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to experience a preview menu. Approximately 100 sponsors and influential & beverage enthusiasts gathered inside the (not open to the public) stadium locker room for a special dinner.


We learned this year’s Masters of Taste takes place on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization based in Pasadena. Union Station helps homeless men, women and children in rebuilding their lives. Services include street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management and career development.

Chefs Michael Hung & Sammy Monsour

This year Executive chef Michael Hung from Faith & Flower is the Masters of Taste Host Chef. Hung was outside in a pop-up kitchen with his brother the Executive Chef Jon Hung from The Raymond 1886, along with Sammy Monsour of Preux & Proper, Jonathan Aviles from Salazar and Jon Hensley of Lark Cake Shop.

Before a sit-down dinner, we stood among beautiful wood lockers and banners above displaying historic and memorable events featured at the Rose Bowl. While sipping signature handcrafted cocktails by The Raymond 1886 and Ventura Spirits we met Cameron Masden, one of The Raymond 1886 mixologists. He made a “Kami of Dawn” with KI NO BI Dry Gin, lemon juice, Yuzu syrup, passion fruit, green chartreuse, and Cordo Marihana. He will be at the April 7 event, along with other beverage masters from top cocktail bars.


Bryan Chenault of Ventura Spirits made “East LA Spitz” with Amaro Americano, East Imperial grapefruit, tonic and a twist of orange. Slices of Pasadena’s Plant pizza were passed around the room.


The first course was prepared by Salazar’s Executive Chef Jonathan Aviles. He made Coctel de Camaron that was paired with a shot of H.E. Greer Back Bar Project Nuestra Soledad Mezcal.

The second course was a savory NOLA style seafood gumbo pot prepared by Chef Sammy Monsour the Executive Chef at Preux & Proper. It went perfectly with a glass of O’Melvaney Red Ale poured by Frank Martinez from the San Fernando Brewing Co.


Next Jon Hung at The Raymond 1886 prepared seared sea trout with lentils and plump sweet raisins. Russell Shin poured glasses of San Simeon Sauvignon Blanc ’18 to enjoy with this course.


When Jon’s brother Michael, the Host Chef of Masters of Taste and Executive Chef Faith & Flower, served his beautifully executed slow roasted loin New York Strip steak, we all remarked how tender and flavorful this was, especially with his classic French Bordelaise sauce. It was served with a lovely green pea tart. This dish was paired with a glass of San Antonio Winery Cabernet Sauvignon ’15.


We finished with a small box of artisan chocolates from Joe Terpoghossian’s Mignon Chocolates and a red velvet mini-cupcake from John Hensley of Lark Cake Shop. Both of these were served with a small glass of strawberry brandy from Bryan Chenault’s Ventura Spirits.


This year’s Masters of Taste is on Sunday, April 7, 2019. Attendees have the opportunity to stroll the 50-yard line while enjoying small plates from some of L.A.’s top chefs and restaurants. There are only a limited amount of VIP tickets left – Click on Masters of Taste 2019 to learn more.

Masters of Taste 2017

Last Sunday at 1:30 p.m., the clouds opened at the iconic Rose Bowl in Pasadena less than two hours before hundreds of people were going to arrive for a 3 p.m., entrance to the second annual Masters of Taste.


It was sunny and dry by the time I arrived and strolled the 50-yard line feasting on some of the finest fare from L.A.’s top chefs and restaurants.  Here are 9 of my favorite Masters of Taste experiences –

Tony Esnault – Spring and Church and State – FullSizeRender-172

This esteemed chef made a fresh English pea soup adorned with carrots and a few drops of herbed oil. To learn more about his restaurants, click on these links – Church and State and Spring.

The Dirty Cookie –

The Dirty Cookie takes milk and cookies to a new level. Each cookie is handcrafted and delicately hand-coated with premium Belgian Chocolate. Each cookie can be filled with Milk, Vanilla Almond Milk, Cremes – Chocolate and Vanilla, Coconut Cold Brew, Soft-Serve
or Toasted Marshmallow. To learn more, go to The Dirty Cookie.



SpireWorks had one of the most colorful tables at the event. To learn why I think the Eagle Rock and Westwood locations are terrific fast, casual dining destinations click on this link to read my review SpireWorks.

INTRO Art Gallery & Chefs Table


I was so happy to see Michelin-Star Chef Paul Shoemaker from INTRO Art Gallery & Chef’s Table. He made his signature edible “dime bag” made with translucent Japanese rice paper filled with powdered foie gras, cocoa nibs and puffed rice. Shoemaker makes an elegant 12-course dinner every Friday and Saturday evening. It’s an exciting interactive dining experience of art, music and food. Shoemaker told me that he is popping up on the Westside and Venice showcasing his unique menu items. Check out my review of INTRO –

True Food Kitchen –

FullSizeRender-168For healthy options True Food Kitchen offered three tasty bites to hundreds of guests. Here’s my review of True Food Kitchen – True Food Kitchen.

Sprinkles –


Sprinkles Cupcake founder and pastry chef Candace Nelson is the founder started tthe world’s first cupcake bakery in Beverly Hills in 2005. Today, Sprinkles has locations nationwide, and a traveling Sprinklesmobile. In 2012, Sprinkles debuted the world’s first Cupcake ATM and recently Sprinkles Ice Cream. To learn more

Milk and Honey –


Milk and Honey offered Hawaiian Blast Wellness Bowls that were filled with a base of strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and organic almond milk. The toppings included pineapple, coconut meat, honeydew, organic hemp granola, a piece of honeycomb and beautiful California grown organic edible flower. Click here to learn where Milk and Honey is located Milk and Honey.



I really liked this Kombucha created by Michael Faye. As a commercial photographer and  huge dog lover, his bottles have a photo of an adorable dog. His Kombucha is one of the undiluted, organic types . This probiotic is traditionally brewed with tea. It’s BPA-free, raw, gluten-free, and non GMO. Kombucha Dog is available at over 150 locations in bottles and on tap in markets, restaurants and bars in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Diego Counties – Kombuchadog.

Complimentary parking will also be available at the event. Tickets to this event are only available for guests 21+ and over. To book your tickets directly,visit Rose Bowl Drive, Pasadena.

The Magnificent Masters of Taste

The Just Opened Venue - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(An ideal culinary venue for foodies inside the historic Rose Bowl – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

It was a spectacular day to savor the finer things in life on the field of the historic Rose Bowl during Masters of Taste on Sunday, April 3.

The new outdoor, luxury culinary festival opened at 3 p.m. to the public as a fundraiser for Union Station. Approximately 2,000 influential food and beverage enthusiasts enjoyed small plates from some of L.A.’s finest chefs and notable sweet masters.

There were multiple opportunities to sip signature handcrafted cocktails and tastings from over 25 beverage masters from top cocktail bars.

(The friendly wine staff from Alexander Valley Vineyards -Instagram: @AVVWinery – Twitter @AVVWinery – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Participating wineries include Alexander Valley Vineyards from Healdsburg, Paso Robles’ Anglim Winery, the premium boutique winery Ascension Cellars and Ventura’s Four Brix Winery. Guests can also enjoy pressed juices, hand-roasted coffee and entertainment.

Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.
(Chef Bernhard Mairinger served crispy pork belly crostini w/ fava bean and radish.)

Here are some of my favorite participating chefs and what they served at the event.  Matt Bata, from Alexander’s Steakhouse; Bernhard Mairinger, of BierBeisl; Michael “Mick” Schepers, of HACHÉ LA; Yoya Takahashi, of Hamasaku; Carolos Tomazos, of Inotheke; Sean Popcock, of Made in Brooklyn; Kyle Schutte, of Wood & Vine; Neal Fraser, of Redbird; and Isaias Pena, of Spare Tire Kitchen & Tavern. Brewmasters include Alosta Brewing Co., Bootlegger’s Brewery, Iron Triangle Brewing, Indie Brewing Company and Golden Road Brewing.

(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless - Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(A good cause to help those in need at Union Station for the Homeless – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

Proceeds from Masters of Taste benefitted Union Station Homeless Services, a nonprofit organization based in Pasadena and committed to helping homeless men, women and children rebuild their lives. Services include street outreach, meals, shelter, housing, case management and career development.

I hope this event was a huge success and that they will organize another Masters of Taste in 2017. Here’s who I met –

  1. Made in Brooklyn Pizza Food Truck – HOLD IT. FOLD IT. EAT IT. Instagram @MadeInBrooklynNYPizza – Twitter @MIBPizza
(Chef Sean Popock made in Brooklyn Pizza Truck – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

2. Kelly’s Kookies served individual plate of various cookies to each guest before entering the center of the stadium.They were delicious.  Instagram @KellysKookies – Twitter @KellysKookies.

Kelley's Kookies - Melting Moments - Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread
(Sweet Masters Kelley’s Kookies served Melting Moments – Chocolate dipped & lemon shortbread – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

3. San Antonio Winery served a variety of their wines and offered foodies a chance to win a beautiful wine basket. Instagram @SanAntonioWinery – Twitter @SAWineryLA

San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner - photo by Jill Weinlein
(San Anotonio Winery basket went to one lucky winner – photo by Jill Weinlein)

4. BAI – Bai is the Mandarin Chinese word for “pure.” It’s also an acronym for “botanical antioxidant infusions.” Bai uses only natural flavors without artificial colors to create our fresh, delicious, 5-calorie beverages. Instagram @DrinkBai – Twitter @Drink Bai.


5. I recently reviewed Executive Chef Neal Fraser‘s newest culinary endeavor Fritzi DLTA and was happy to see him representing Redbird. Instagram @RedbirdLA – Twitter @RedbirdLA

Jill Weinlein with Neil Fraser Redbird while making Ricotta Gnudi with guanchale & spicy tomato sauce.
(Jill Weinlein with Neal Chef Fraser)

6. Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – I always enjoy seeing Executive Chef Isaias Peña and owner Paul Boettcher. I’ve reviewed this fun gastropub on Wilshire Blvd. along the Wilshire Corridor – / Instagram @SpareTireLA – Twitter @SpareTireLA

Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son - Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar
(Chef Isaias Peña and owners Owner Paul Boettcher and son – Spare Tire Kitchen + Bar – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

6. HOOCH is a private cocktail app for your smart phone. The App is free to download to check out. If you decide to become a member, membership is $9.99 per month, less than the price of one cocktail. Instagram @HoochApp – Twitter @HoochApp

HOOCH - Mixwell - Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail
(HOOCH – Mixwell – Brugal Anejo Buck Rum Cocktail – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

7. Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to ticket holders.

Massage Envy offered complimentary massages to guests.
(What a treat to get a massage – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

8. Choctál representatives offered four tastes of chocolates and four spoons of their vanilla ice cream. The chocolates were from Ghana, Kalimantan, Costa Rica and Dominican Republic. The vanilla beans used to make the vanilla ice cream are from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mexico.  The ice cream is elegant, smooth and intensely creamy. Instragram @Choctal – Twitter @Choctal

Choctal Cutie
(Choctal Cutie serving tastes to festival attendees – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

9. Executive Chef Brendan Collins of Birch was at the festival. He had his book – Cooking, Blokes and Artichokes – A Modern Man’s Kitchen Handbook for all to admire. Instagram @BirchLosAngeles – Twitter @BirchLA

Executive Chef Brendan Collins
(Executive Chef Brendan Collins – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

10. Golden Road Brewery Crafted in Glendale/Los Angeles since 2011. They served tastes of Wolf 3D and 329 Lager. Did you know there are 329 days of sun in So Cal? 329 Lager is full-flavored and easy-drinking with a clean, crisp finish. Instagram @GoldenRoadBrew – Twitter @GoldenRoadBrew

Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event.
(Golden Road Brewery brought lively staff members who were enjoying the event – Photo by Jill Weinlein)

11. Indie Brewing Company – I met (L to R) Brewmaster James Mancuso, who loves every Indie brew. Kevin O’Malley – a graduate of the Introduction to Practical Brewing Course at University of Davis, California, one of the top brewing schools in the U.S. His favorite beer is the Indie’s Porter offering a complex rich taste with a drinkability he has never experienced with any other porter. Connor Forbes, an expert at brewing, drinking, and loving beer. These guys were a lot of fun and had a great time at Masters of Taste. Instagram @IndieBrewCO -Twitter @IndieBrewingCo

(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company - photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Happy guys from Indie Brewing Company – photo by Jill Weinlein)

12. The Raymond – 1886 Bar opened a cocktail program was created by Aidan Demarest and Marcos Tello (The Edison, 7 Grand, Tom Bergins) with a strong foundation in classic techniques. They make perfect Manhattans, Old-Fashions, Sidecars, and Sours with fresh juices and hand-cut chunks of ice. Every syrup, infusion, tincture and foam is house-made and perfectly tailored to suit the recipes. Bar 1886 offers over 600 off-menu house cocktails. Instagram @1886Bar – Twitter @1886Bar.

The Raymond in Pasadena
The Raymond in Pasadena

To learn more about Masters of Taste, go to