Plate by Plate is Project by Project’s signature event, held both in Los Angeles and New York City. On Saturday night, Project by Project hosted its 6th Annual Tasting Event bringing together the most talented chefs from the best restaurants as well as samplings from the premier wineries and beverage companies in Los Angeles with a little mixing of Asian celebrity. Each year the group partners with a different organization. This year PbP partnered with Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE), a non-profit, non-partisan, community-based organization whose mission is to advance the political empowerment of the Asian Pacific American community. Above is Project by Project founder, Liliana Chen (left) and Master of Ceremonies, actress Michelle Krusiec. Read on for a recap of the evening, including interviews with a few celebrity attendees.
How does a group bring out the best of the best in Asian Americans from their homes and into the wonderful Los Angeles nightlife? For the non-profit group, Project by Project, it was an easy task. Why don’t we get them through their stomachs?
This past Saturday, July 26, 2008, Project by Project, a growing volunteer based Asian Pacific American non-profit organization, hosted its annual tasting benefit called Plate by Plate at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. With over 40 top-rated restaurants along with distinguished chefs and Beverage Purveyors, they were joined with Asian American Celebrities, elected officials and community leaders, to help raise funds for the local Los Angeles organization called CAUSE ( Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment).
I asked Liliana Chen of Project by Project, how do they decide what organization receives the benefits from their annual tasting. “The national steering committee and the board will select a theme every year. It’s a very broad theme like Asian Americans in the arts or Asian Americans in healthcare, then the local chapters seek out organizations that fit that theme and submit names of these different organizations. Basically, we prefer to work with organizations that are underserved or have a smaller budget, so that the kind of money we donate to them will make a great impact.”
Project by Project also holds their annual tasting benefit in New York. So why L.A? Chen responds, “Well we have a chapter here in the Southern California area that has been around for about six years and we have always been a part of the community because our theme touches different issues. Every time we do an event, we give the money to a different charity so we can mobilize in different levels. I think the Southern California area is a huge area for the Asian Americans and there are a lot of Asian American organizations that we like here. It’s a natural inclination to host an event here.”
Celebrity guest sous chefs in the house included: Michelle Krusiec who hosted this evenings event along with Ted Chen of KNBC, singer Lara Avengoza, dancer Taeko Carroll, Archie Kao, James Kyson Lee (he was host last year), Jodi Long, Victoria Recano, designer Kit Pistol and Sweet P, plus “American Idol” finalist Camile Velasco and actor Jack Yang of Cashmere Mafia.
As I walked through the venue, a number of scrumptious delicacies were ready for my hearty stomach. I was able to question a few celebrities on their favorite dish and if they knew how to cook. Here’s what they had to say:
James Kyson Lee
ASIANCE: How many times have you been a sous chef celebrity?
JKL: Last year I was actually host. This year I’m doing something different.
ASIANCE: So do you cook yourself?
JKL: Yeah! Not like these guys (pointing to the real sous chefs).
ASIANCE:When you cook, what do you usually cook?
JKL: I usually do a lot of chicken, fish and tofu. I love salmon. I eat a lot of healthy stuff.
ASIANCE: Hey, Japanese and French cuisine! My schedule is on the go a lot so I truely to cook a lot of mixed greens and things like that.
ASIANCE: What has been your favorite dish at his event?
JKL: Hey, I got to start with this albacore eggplant wrap from Akira’s in Pasadena. Check it out and enjoy.
ASIANCE: So do you bake?
CV:Of course, sure.
ASIANCE: So what do you like to bake?
CV: I’ll probably bake something like chocolate chip cookies and brownies.
ASIANCE: Is this your first time at PBP and do you love it?
CV: This is my first time. It is awesome! I love it! I’m almost at full capacity to fullness that I want to be at. I can’t complain.
ASIANCE: What is the dish that you’ve enjoyed the most sampling tonight?
CV: I went to this spot something called Roy’s. They have this pork with cabbage and mash potatoes. It’s got a bit of the local Hawaiian theme and flavor. It was amazing
ASIANCE: Do you cook yourself?
CV: Yes I do. Unfortunately for myself, I like to shop for clothes. I have to buy groceries so I can’t eat out as much so I can save my money. I’m forced to cook at home.
ASIANCE: If you’re forced to cook at home, what do you like to cook that you really love?
CV: I have my rice cooker on all the time of course. I loved rice everything. I usually have a lot of chicken and steak. I love mixed steak.
ASIANCE: What do you like about PbP
? MK: I think they bring the best restaurants in L.A. out. I think everyone wins because they found a great way to bring people out, it’s fun for me to be part of it. I’m also contributing to the community and I think the way they organize it very nice.
ASIANCE: So how long have you’ve been a part of PBP?
MK: I’ve known Liliana Chen for at least 3 to 4 years, which has been the same number of years I’ve been volunteering.
ASIANCE: What is the dish that you’ve enjoyed the most tonight?
MK: I actually think… It’s actually a very good year. I think there was a wonderful seared fillet that was simple but was so finely done and was really yummy. There was also restaurant that did a date with mozorrella and moscapone with a twist of lime. I just love that they had to courage to do something quite unique because in a venue like this, there are so many other restaurants and they have to pick just one thing to make them stand out. I thought they did a really good job with that.
ASIANCE: Do you like to cook?
MK: I do love to cook. When I go out to eat, I love to eat stuff that I can’t cook.
ASIANCE: So when you cook, what is the signature Michelle Krusiec dish that you’d cook for people?
MK: I do a very good fish. I do a pickled fish, but it’s not pickled. It’s just the secret ingredient of the pickle juice. It’s kind of like a sour or lime fish.
ASIANCE: So it’s baked or steamed?
MK: It’s steamed. Kind of an Asian Twist.
ASIANCE: Is this your first year doing PBP?
VR: Yes it is and I’m loving it.
ASIANCE: Do you love to cook?
VR: Yes I love to cook. I cook at least 4 times a week. I’m enjoying steam cooking. I just bought this nice steaming basket. My brother is chef for the Four Seasons so I love it when he comes over and cooks for us.
ASIANCE: At this event, what have you totally enjoyed?
VR: Oh I love the desserts from that booth across the way. I think it’s called Vanille de Pastelle.
ASIANCE: So what is a Victoria Signature dish?
VR: Good question. I’d have to say lumpias.
ASIANCE: Ah, nice. Ground beef or pork?
VR: Pork. Yes, Lumpiang Shanghai made with pork.
ASIANCE: And you love pancit and chicken adobo?
VR: Oh definitely, I love pancit and chicken adobo is oh so good.
For more information on Project By Project’s upcoming Plate By Plate Tasting in New York, visit their site at www.projectbyproject.org
Interviews by Peter Gonzaga. Photos by Sthanlee B. Mirador/Pacific Rim Photo Press