Casa De Amparo's 19th Annual Meet the Chefs Event

Delicious Dessert created by Pamplemousse Grille

Liah Masterson

San Diego sunshine joined with a dash of delightful cuisine, all to support the amazing organization Casa de Amparo. Recently, Casa de Amparo celebrated their 19th Annual Meet the Chefs Event, helping to raise awareness of the organization’s dedicated mission to help foster youth. Taking place at the beautiful pool terrace of the Hilton in Del Mar, guests were treated to a wide array of gourmet food samples created by San Diego’s finest chefs from local restaurants, including: Pamplemousse Grill, Pacifica Del Mar, Jake’s Del Mar, Il Fornaio, Dolce Pane e Vino, Del Mar Brigantine, Sbicca Del Mar, Red Tractor’s, Shimbashi Izakaya, Poseidon Restaurant, Del Mar Rendezvous, Coast Kitchen at Hilton Del Mar, Il Fornaio, Americana Restaurant, and Harrah’s Resort Southern CA. Complementing the delicious cuisine options were wine and beer samples provided by Stone Brewing Co. and Young’s Market Company. Attendees also had the unique opportunity to participate in a live and silent auction, which helped to raise additional proceeds for the organization.

Unlike most charity events, Meet the Chef’s allowed for guests to meet some of the youth who participate in the non–profit’s programming and to speak with them about the influence that Casa de Amparo has had on their own lives. For the event this year, four of Casa de Amparo’s former foster youth were able to work alongside select chefs while gaining an invaluable experience in the culinary arts. Through this experience, they were able to see what a day in the life of a chef is like. While visiting each restaurant booth, I came across two of these youthful chefs and had a brief moment to chat with them about their career aspirations.

Veronica Thomas has been in the culinary program for less than one year; she began her journey as a self–taught cook. While at the Meet the Chefs event, Veronica was afforded the opportunity to work side–by–side with Chef Mason Garske of the Del Mar Brigantine. Veronica mentioned that she really “admires chefs who own their own restaurants and aspires to hopefully own [her own] restaurant one day.” She is currently in the program and lives with her roommate PJ who is in the program, as well.

Prea’Jhana Anderson (AKA PJ) is a new member of the Casa de Amparo program, but she can already see the immense positive change that it has had on her own life. PJ said, “The youth housing program at Casa de Amparo has really provided a positive influence to help better myself.” She then added that she uses her passion for cooking as a coping skill. With homelessness being an option many foster youth face daily, Casa de Amparo allows for them to have fully–furnished apartment housing shared with a roommate. Through the organization’s support, Casa kids can instead focus on developing a successful and self sustaining future for themselves by furthering their education and career goals. Through the program, PJ has developed a unique support system and close friends like Veronica. At Meet the Chefs, PJ was able to work side by side with Chef Roberto Carboni of Il Fornaio. Although cooking is her passion, she plans to pursue and further a career in early childhood development and social work to have a positive influence in the lives of future youth.

Aside from the overall fun atmosphere of the event, the goal of the afternoon was clearly to establish a deeper awareness of the impact that this amazing organization is having on the foster youth community. I met with the event coordinator, Jasmine Shafik, who was kind enough to introduce me to few members of the Board of Directors and Development Staff for Casa de Amparo. While sitting with Richard Berwick, Senior Director of Casa de Amparo, I was able to really gain some additional insight into the organization’s goals for the day’s event. As Berwick said, “We really try to help provide a stronger visibility of the organization within the community, especially amongst a younger crowd who can continue to facilitate in supporting this organization. Our goal really is to provide a safe environment for youth from broken situations and help them heal by offering an array of structured programs.” Tamara Fleck Meyers, Executive Director of Casa de Amparo, added, “We really strive to provide a more fair childhood for these youth through family services and protection.” With a dedicated and determined staff, it is clear that this organization has a strong desire to make a difference in the lives of foster youth in order to ensure that they are able to have a more promising and successful future.

As the afternoon came to a close, guests flocked to the dance floor and enjoyed last minute samples and conversation. Although many did not want the afternoon to end, attendees were left with a feeling of fulfillment in knowing that not only were they able to enjoy a delightful afternoon, but also that their participation helped to further and continue the success of Casa de Amparo.