These last few days, I’ve been immersed in what is certainly one of the most enjoyable aspects of my life – interviewing chefs. Forty-two of them, actually.

For the second year in a row, I have the pleasure of working with the Illumination Foundation and their renowned “OC Chef’s Table” for their March 3, 2019 date.

Once again hosted by proud sponsor Disneyland® Resort, the OC Chef’s Table has climbed so quickly in popularity that Illumination Foundation had to move to the resort’s largest ballroom in Anaheim to accommodate their growing number of chefs.

At OC Chef’s Table, each top-ranked chef will “host” a table of 10 guests with imaginative menus and table decor. Each year, the funds raised are earmarked for a specific project. For March 2019, the specific project is a great one: Illumination Foundation, in partnership with CHOC, is building a recuperative care center for homeless children. Now, when homeless children are discharged from emergency rooms or post-surgery, they don’t have to return to the streets with their families to try to heal. Illumination Foundation leads the nation in adult recuperative care centers that bridge that gap between hospital and return to full health, and now it’s all about the children.

Several months ago in March, my marketing agency team and I were able to help just a few weeks in advance of the 2018 event. What Illumination Foundation is doing to break the cycle of homelessness – and what these chefs and attendees are doing to support their cause – made quite an impact on me. At last year’s event, they raised $1 million toward specific programs geared toward educational resources and health care for homeless children. I immediately asked how my marketing agency could get even more involved

New Website, Deserved Spotlight
With a goal to spotlight these top-flight chefs over next four months leading to the event, we’ve boosted a new website – OCChefsTable.com – and I’m in the process of calling each and every one of these chefs for initial interviews.

Chefs are such amazing people. They’re crazy-passionate and beyond devoted to a working life that would flatten most of us. They’re on purpose and happy, and they love talking about food. As I complete one interview after the next, I find the chefs involved in OC Chef’s Table 2019 to be the most engaging and interesting humans, all of whom have great senses of humor and not a shred of arrogance.

They talk about the life-changing experience they’ve felt in the OC Chef’s Table room, and I’m quite sure the feeling is mutual in the guests who enjoy their 5-course flights of fancy.

Celebrity & Award-Winning Chefs Galore
This coming year, Food Network’s Celebrity Chef Jet Tila will be returning. Aside from growing roles on Iron Chef and a number of other FN shows, Chef Jet tells me he has a new cookbook coming out in March, and his 5-course menu will be built from recipe housed therein. (And! He’s bringing his pastry chef wife, Ali, along to supply the 5th course. Yum)

Napa Rose’s award-winning Chef Andrew Sutton is again Disneyland® Resort’s host chef for the event. He’s been instrumental in helping us gather chefs for the event and has already begun fielding questions as the chefs consider their menus.

L.A.’s renowned Rose Café in Santa Monica asked to be involved this year. Chef Jason Neroni says he’s looking forward to the Anaheim trek as he actually began his culinary career 25 years ago making Monte Cristo sandwiches for the Blue Bayou at Disneyland® Resort.

The Farmhouse’s iconic Rich Mead is returning. He’s done so many giant table events for 150 and 250 guests at a time that a 10-top of guests should prove quite the relaxing evening for him. And Chef Bryan Brown with Monarch Beach Resort’s award-wining Bourbon Steak will be welcomed as a newbie.

Returning Chef Michal Rossi from The Ranch is just heading out to Tazmania for a week-long visit, and plans to bring some new ideas back for his own OC Chef’s Table menu.

Famed Anaheim speakeasy (if you can find it!) Blind Rabbit has its new chef, Peter Lai, already planning a “tableside event,” while great names and faces from the exclusive Club 33, CATAL, Filomena’s Habana, Mastro’s Ocean Club, Mastro’s Steakhouse, Red O, Summit House and more will be returning, too.

Laguna Beach Surprises, Too
From Laguna Beach, we have three new surprise entries – Starfish Laguna will be spotlighting their new chef (an exquisite find, I might add).

Our newest chef extraordinaire, Greg Daniels, will be featuring menu items from what will THEN be the existing Harley restaurant.

And, likely one of the more interesting chef stories – recently returned Chef Maro Molteni is flying his brother, Martin, in to partner as a duo for their table of guests. As it turns out, Chef Martin Molteni is a celebrity chef in Argentina and, in fact, is known worldwide after achieving first-place honors in Lyon, France’s Bocuse d’Or, the most prestigious gastronomic competition in the world.

What Laguna Chefs Would YOU Recommend?
Do I want more Laguna Beach chefs in this March 2019 spotlight? Absolutely. I have hopes that a couple more great Laguna chefs will step forward before the IF reaches their maximum number of 45 chefs. (You chefs know how to reach me, but just in case: Diane@TheBestofLagunaBeach.com.)

The chef interviews I’ve been collecting these last few days are extraordinary, and I’ll be posting them as quickly as I can at the OCChefsTable.com site. Watch, too, in my Best of Laguna Beach social media platforms for updates on seasonal menus and in-restaurant events you’re going to want to calendar. Welcome to the coolest chefs around! I know you’ll enjoy getting to know them as much as I have.

The OCChefsTable.com website also offers more information on the Illumination Foundation’s unique success story, as well as ticketing and sponsorships available. What a great cause for a great organization – and a great evening in March ahead!

Photos provided by Illumination Foundation