Rolling on the Red Carpet and Award Winners: 4th Annual Taste Awards at Vibiana

All Photos by Billy Bennight for The Los Angeles Beat. Alie and Georgia celebrate winning at the Taste Awards.

All Photos by Billy Bennight for The Los Angeles Beat. Alie and Georgia celebrate winning at the Taste Awards.

It’s award season in Los Angeles where there’s an award event or some sort of recognition party every few days. There’s a growing interest of food preparation and this phenomenon continued to explode! Foodies are growing in exceptional numbers and this is one reason I couldn’t resist when I gazed upon an invite to the 4th Annual Taste Awards honoring innovative and interesting Food programming. I signed on immediately!

I had determined that I’d cover the Red Carpet as always and then the Awards ceremony, because I wanted to have it all. The event was held in Downtown Los Angeles at Vibiana, a beautiful old abandoned church. I had once noticed Vibiana a number of years ago from the Downtown Independent Theater’s roof, where friends having their Indy movie premiere party. This evening I was finally up close as I walked up to a beautiful court-yard of Vibiana to the press table to be confirmed for the Red Carpet that was set deeper on the patio, but still in view. Like Film or Television production a Red Carpet event has a lot of hurry up and wait to it and then it’s on! So I and the other three photogs chilled under the two white lights and in front of the step and repeat. Within a half hour or so the arrivals started popping in to roll on the carpet. There were a slew of them that approached, posed and preened all in a furious blur of activity and move on to the center of the courtyard. The ones of note who rolled past on the carpet were Dave Shelton (Screenwriter, Director and Cartoonist), Cat Cora (Iron Chef), Colin Kimball (President and Founder of Small Screen Network), Jolene Sugarbaker (Youtube), Rocco Leo Gaglioti (Celebrity Style Story), Caroline Hennesy (True Blood), Bobby Bognar (Food Tech), Holly Fulgar (Speaking of Beauty with Holly Fulgar), James Cunningham (Eat St. and Comedian), Bruce Seidel (Food Network, Cooking Channel and Youtube), Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark (Classy Ladies). The ones who took the “Proverbial Cake” on the carpet were Jolene Sugarbaker, James Cunningham and the two fabulous “Classy Ladies” Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark. They rounded out the most festive elements of the Taste Awards Red Carpet.

Just before the award presentation was to start in earnest we photogs were released for the evening. I moved to the second course: the awards ceremony proper in the Vibiana’s exquisite main camber. The building is a rather grand old church; although, it was a Catholic church at one time there were Orthodox design elements to its architecture. It had fine marble for the floors and an immense interior, which led to the astounding echo the place had. Inside there were hundreds of people. For the most part they were standing near the tables in the back where food samples and drinks were provided. People were posing and taking picture in the abandoned confessionals for nifty photo ops. The main host of the event was James Cunningham, a comedian, who revved up the energy. The Presentations followed with a series of different presenters who included Jolene Sugarbaker, P. Allen Smith, Cat Cora, Bobby Bognar and Bruce Seidel to name a few. Multi award winners included “Classy Ladies” Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark who took Best Drink or Beverage Program and Best Travel Series (TV). Rocco Leo Gaglioti owned Best Fashion or Design Program (TV) and Best Fashion or Design: Web Program or Video and finishing off this triad was Nadia Giosia of “Bitchin Kitchen” won both Outstanding Entertainer and Best Comedy. The Bikini Chef’s Susan Irby, Denice Fladeboe and Steve Valentine took Best Health & Fitness Program. Liza de Guia won with Best Green or Organic Program (providing the longest acceptance speech of the evening). Rick Steves won Best Travel Program.

Photo Gallery at the Jump

Kikkoman was hosting the Taste Awards and offered their Honorees and Special Taste Achievement Awards. Here’s a partial list of the winners: Kikkoman’s Tastemaker of the Year went Andrew Zimmern.  Kikkoman’s Pioneer Award  Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay. Kikkoman’s Breakout Foodies of the Year programming were: About Face: Supermodels Then and Now (HBO),, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (Bravo), Styled By June (VH1). Kikkoman’s Breakout Storytellers of the Year was The WIGS Channel: Danielle /Audrey. Kikkoman’s Outstanding Passion was owned by Fabio Viviani and Joe Ciminera. Kikkoman’s Outstanding Entertainer belonged to Nadia G. Kikkoman’s Great Taste awards were given to Laura in the Kitchen, Naked Wine Show and Colin Kimball’s Small Screen Network.

Colin Kimball of Small Screen Network representing!

Colin Kimball of Small Screen Network representing!

The people I found most interesting were Colin Kimball who took advantage of branding himself and the Small Screen Network in shameless manner on a consistent basis. That’s something I can admire! Later he was rewarded with the Great Taste Award. I found Steve Valentine charming. He appropriately bragged about his Vivian Westwood gold print T-shirt at the right time to me. I’m all ears when it comes to Vivian Westwood. He handles PR and host is a with Susan Irby and Denice Fladeboe on the charming Bikini Chef. Melissa McNamara and Holly Fulger were fun gals that had their eyes on making you look beautiful and were representing their show, Speaking of Beauty with Holly Fulger. They were lovely ladies who put on a good show, even if they didn’t win. Dave Shelton who’s credits include Everybody Love Raymond is a screenwriter, director and cartoonist. He’s currently collaborating with Judy Tenuta on a new show. He had seen me earlier at the 50th anniversary celebration at the Egyptian for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds which caused him to sparked up a conversation of the evening’s festivities with me. Finally, my new loves are the crowd pleasing and unconventional gals, Alie Ward and Georgia Hardstark, of Classy Ladies. They were hilarious and masters of both impromptu and physical comedy. When they hit the Red Carpet they own it. Both were filled with girlish irreverent charm and sizzling sassy energy that captivates and entertains. They both own a keen sense of “Vintage” style that’s spot on and playful. This duo provided no let up in the fun. They continued to “Bring it” on the carpet and were just as vivacious when they were collecting their awards and beyond. For me they made the evening.

As the evening wrapped up. I noticed the crowd had diminished in the main room. The reason came to light when I entered the courtyard once again to see a lengthy line of eager eaters lined up for the smoked goose tacos and the cocktails being served gratis. It was a nice decompression point to the evening’s events. People gathered in groups to eat and chat. I stayed for some of this as I chatted with these young ladies who kept exchanging shoes. For whatever reason this process continued between them I couldn’t offer any logical reason. Form this point I went on the fade and bid farewells to my host,  a beautiful space and a great time.




Billy Bennight

About Billy Bennight

Billy Bennight is a writer and photographer with expertise and years of experience in these disciplines. His musical youth started as a Punk Rocker and has expanded into exploring many genres of music, with a keen interest in art, fashion, photography, and writing. He shoots celebrity and red-carpet events for ZUMA Press. He is also a member of the Los Angeles Art Association. His images have been published in The Los Angeles Times, People Magazine, Parade, Wall Street Journal, and French Elle, both Vanity Fair and Vanity Fair Italia. He's very engaged in life. You an see more of his work at ZUMA Press at You can follow him on his Facebook page at: and on Instagram and Twitter @billybennight
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