Chefs Unite at Pier del Sol to Support the Special Olympics

. Maison Giraud's Nicoise saladPier del Sol turned out to be the perfect name for Sunday’s fundraiser for the Special Olympics. In spite of the glaring sun, everyone had a wonderful day frolicking at Pacific Park. As the rollercoaster zoomed above, some of LA’s best restaurants served delicious plates to eager guests. The Flawless and Luckykatz cheerleaders showed off their routines, Illegal Download Collection laid down some serious funk, and people strolled the boardwalk with Dandy Don’s ice cream in hand. The pace was relaxed and unhurried, and there were no lines for even the most popular restaurants.

Honorees this year were Joshua Grode, Partner at Irell & Manella, LLP and a member of Special Olympics Southern California’s Board of Directors, and Chef Alain Giraud of Maison Giraud in the Pacific Palisades, who has participated in Pier del Sol for 19 straight years. Last Sunday the chef warmly greeted guests and posed for pictures at the brunch, which was named in his honor this year.

Being that the brunch was named the Alain Giraud Brunch, you know he had to seriously bring it, and it was brung. Maison Giraud presented a gorgeous version of a niçoise salad with seared ahi, new potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, haricot verte, hard boiled eggs, olives, and radishes sliced paper-thin. There were also goat cheese pastries and chocolate croissants. It was hard not to binge at his table, but I had to save room for the other restaurants.

The Daily Grill served a green salad, also with seared ahi, and The Wilshire composed a lovely farro salad with feta and a red wine vinaigrette. Chef Brooke Williamson of the triple-threat Hudson House/Playa Provisions/The Tripel had a light and inspired shrimp and tuna ceviche with passion fruit on a vegetable chip. Chef Williamson also has a mind like a steel trap. She not only knew that I had written about Hudson House, but she remembered riding in an elevator with me four years ago. Chef Michael Cimarusti and Chef Sam Baxter of Providence and Connie & Ted’s presented a raw bar with Naked Cowboys, Peter’s Point, and Pacific Plump Oysters, plus Topneck Clams.

One of my favorite dishes was Bar Pinxto’s breakfast paella with huge chunks of meat and fresh eggs cracked on top. I also loved LA Prime, which I didn’t even know was hidden away in the Westin Bonaventure downtown. Chef Andreas Nieto served a Chicago Stockyard Prime Strip Loin with a celeriac puree and a red wine sauce. It sounded like he also said “bijou salad,” which can’t be right. It must have been “beet shoot salad.”

Pink’s Hot Dogs never misses a charity event, and Richard and Gloria Pink were there with big smiles to support the cause. South Bay locals Fishing with Dynamite brought the perfect brunch dish, shrimp and grits with gumbo sauce and a free-range egg. El Cholo served their signature green corn tamales with mole and encouraged me to come visit.

Chef Gino Angelini of Angelini Osteria created a light dish of prosciutto with fig and melon. And an event isn’t an event without at least one Drago. Chef Tanino Drago served an amazing duck salad with quinoa, red beets and burrata from Via Alloro. From Tanino, his other restaurant, he served mushroom soup. Also ladeling soup was Chef Roger Thomas of L’Ermitage, with a rich lobster bisque with roasted fennel. They told me they are undergoing a renovation, then suggested that I “enjoy.” I asked them what the proper response is when a French waiter says, “Enjoy.” I am enjoying. I am. I promise. But they just laughed.

Besides Dandy Don’s Ice Cream, Sprinkles was there with cookies and cupcakes, and Spago’s pastry chef Della Gosset brought child-pleasing s’mores made with homemade marshmallows that were decked out with sparkly star stickers. Chef Stephanie Franz of The Strand House blew me away with a scrumptious blueberry crumb cake with creme fraiche and blueberry compote. There was a little eyedropper of brown sugar sauce to squeeze into the middle just before eating.

I was thrilled that they had Coca Cola products, so I could indulge my Diet Coke addiction. It just occurred to me now that there was no alcohol at the event. Even Chef Michael Schepers’ strawberry lemonade from Haché was nonalcoholic. I didn’t even miss it.

There was also a table where you could sign your name to pledge to abolish the “R” word. The correct terminology is “people with intellectual disabilities.” The person comes first, not the disability. As I spoke with some of the athletes and admired their gold medals, it was very clear to me that I couldn’t even pull myself up onto parallel bars, much less complete a 500 meter run. That’s why the Special Olympics is so close to my heart. It doesn’t focus on what a person can’t do, but on what they can do.

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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