DEL MAR — On a warm spring afternoon at the Hilton Del Mar patio, Madison Squires scoops out a portion of pecan bread budding onto a small plate.
Vacationing from Anchorage, Alaska, her family’s stay happened to coincide with the 23rd annual Meet the Chefs event, hosted Casa de Amparo. Although they were drawn in by the food, Madison’s mom, Kathleen Squires, said she was thrilled to learn it was all for a great cause.
“It’s totally different from our culture,” Squires said. “What a fabulous way to support an organization and have a great time.”
For 23 years now, Casa de Amparo has brought North County’s top chefs together to provide samplings of their menu items as a fundraiser for the nonprofit.
Based in San Marcos, the organization provides a safe space for more than 950 families in the area whose lives have been affected by domestic violence.
The Meet the Chefs event is one of three major fundraisers the organization hosts each year, with every dollar going toward programming. Typically, they raise around $125,000 dollars from the event.
“It’s a very low overhead to run something like this, so all the proceeds are able to go right back to our organization,” Tamara Fleck-Myers, executive director with Casa de Amparo, explained.
After browsing the silent auction items in the hotel lobby, attendees made their way to the patio for the food.
Scents of prime rib, Kobe beef, Japanese Soba noodles, cauliflower cakes and other gourmet delicacies — all donated by the restaurants — tantalized the stomachs of the nearly 350 guests.
A mouth-watering gumbo from Chef Ty, a second-time Meet the Chefs participant, helped the private chef get his name out to attendees.
“We are donating our time, but it is an excellent opportunity for exposure,” Chef Ty said. “I think it works out as a symbiotic relationship between Casa de Amparo, the people who volunteer and the people who donate.”
Several stations over, the famous Pamplemousse Grille of Solana Beach served up Kobe Beef Sliders and provided all of the delectable desserts.
Less than 24 hours before the event, the restaurant’s head chef, Jeffrey Strauss, was in Georgia at the historic Masters Tournament and left early to attend Meet the Chefs. He’s been involved with the event since its start 23 years ago and had no plans to miss it.
“I look forward to this event every year,” Strauss said. “There are some great chefs out there, and it’s always fun for us to be together and do a good thing.”
Participating restaurants included Red Tracton’s, Del Mar Brigantine, Shimbashi Izakaya, Pillbox Tavern and Grill and other local favorites.
Fleck-Myers says the team at Casa de Amparo is grateful for the community support they receive from the Meet the Chefs event year after year.
“I think that people get the cause and come out for a purpose,” Fleck-Myers said. “It’s an event that doesn’t exclude people. We look out to all our local chefs in the area to give them exposure as well — it’s really a win-win for all of us.”