Blog: Autism Speaks Gala
With celebrity guests, a posh ballroom, and upwards of 90 chefs preparing different courses exclusively for a table of fortunate guests, Monday evening marked the 2013 Autism Speaks Annual Gala held inside of the main space at the luxurious Cipriani Wall Street. Hundreds of philanthropic guests with big appetites and even bigger bankrolls came out for the star-studded culinary affair, focused on the fundraising and awareness for a nonprofit known as Autism Speaks. Founded in 2005, the organization has grown to become a leading not-for-profit group in autism awareness and advocacy as it focuses on the causes, further research and prevention of the disorder. And as 1 in 88 children and 1 in 54 boys are being diagnosed, it is now more pivotal than ever to dig a little bit deeper into understanding autism.
The ballroom was adorned with a setup that simply exuded opulence. The grandiose chandeliers hanging overhead from the incredibly high ceilings shone down upon the white coat wearing staff, hustling to prepare the tables and chairs with white tablecloths and stemware that would host a room full of hungry guests. Prior to the event’s 7pm commencement, there would be coinciding VIP hours hosted at the New York Stock Exchange and a Google sponsored reception on the second floor of Cipriani, bringing together some absolutely outstanding food tastings for the fortunate few. Former Top Chef contestant Lee Anne Wong and Sow Food’s Brian Doyle were doling out delectable samples near Flatiron restaurant ilili, whose “Lobster with Falafel Mousse” and “Kibbeh bu Laban”- a beef and bulgar wheat dumpling stuffed with butter and served with a yogurt pipette which was squeezed into your mouth- were incredible.
As guests grabbed drinks at the nearby open bar, the cavalcade of chefs on hand would walk the red carpet and pose for pictures with fans, supporters, and other chefs. With one of his sons on the autistic spectrum, the cause has become a near and dear one to chef and television personality Franklin Becker, who has competed on reality shows like Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef America. His role as one of the annual event’s co-chairs has allowed him to engage some of the country’s finest chefs in participating in the Gala year after year. The 2013 event would be no different, welcoming culinary masterminds and Top Chef stars like Masaharu Morimoto, Angelo Sosa, Wylie Dufresne, Dale Talde, Sue Zemanick, George Mendes, and Rocco DiSpirito to pose alongside Becker on the red carpet. Downstairs, the main event space would also host luminaries like Tom Colicchio, Joey Campanero, Francios Payard and Laurent Tourondel, with each table filled with guests having a full dinner prepared for them by each chef- some of whom, had fully functioning ovens brought into the space specifically for the event.
While the stars of the crux of the evening would be the dozens of assembled chefs in one place, the red carpet was rolled out for some other celebrity attendees as well. The Autism Speaks Gala welcomed Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams and the evening’s emcee, host of the upcoming new daytime talk vehicle “The Meredith Vieira Show,” Meredith Vieira. Both guests graciously posed for pictures although Williams was stopped by so many fans that he had a difficult time reaching his table initially. The program itself kicked off shortly after 7pm with Vieira welcoming the now sizable audience to the Gala and subsequently introducing a video package highlighting the financial impact that the annual event has on Autism Speaks and the sheer fun that the chefs seem to have in competing with each other to prepare the finest array of courses that their creativity will allow. It seems that anyone fortunate enough to be able to attend the Autism Speaks Gala is a winner- from the chefs to the attendees to the humbled celebrity guests- and that the after effects of the monies raised on this night are far reaching and long lasting. For more information on Autism Speaks and how you can make a difference, check out autismspeaks.org, where even a small part plays a big role.