Food festivals have become as common as movie openings in Los Angeles, with one or more just about every weekend. But L.A. Loves Alex's Lemonade, which took place a couple of weeks ago on a grassy plaza on the UCLA campus, stands apart from the rest - in both the top toques it attracts and the cause it supports. The event benefits Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit that funds research into childhood cancer. The organization was founded in 2000 when four-year-old Alex Scott, who was fighting cancer, told her parents she wanted to set up a lemonade stand to help doctors find a cure for the disease. She raised $2,000 in a single day. Alex passed away in 2004 at the age of eight, but her foundation has endured, raising nearly $100 million and funding 450 research projects.
Chef/restaurateur Suzanne Goin, her business partner Caroline Styne and her husband, chef David Lentz, have hosted L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade for five years in a row. “Chefs are very generous,” Goin says. “Every single chef we ask to participate says yes.”
The chefs dishing out gourmet tastes included many of SoCal’s best (Ludo Lefebvre, Michael Voltaggio, Roy Choi, Mary Sue Milliken), TV star chef Giada De Laurentiis and the young contestants from Masterchef Junior. “It’s a very chef-to-chef event,” says Goin. “We think of it as a decadent chef’s cookout.” The event also drew some of the state’s top winemakers and mixologists and celebrity foodies like Jimmy Kimmel, Laura Dern and Modern Family’s Ty Burell.
Terrific as the food, wine and cocktails were, the most extraordinary part of the afternoon was when there was a pause in the service and Alex’s parents, Jay and Liz Scott, co-executive directors of the foundation, took the stage. “You can get stronger through hardship,” Liz Scott said. “You focus on what you’ve gained. We have met so many amazing people through Alex’s Lemonade.” Her voice broke when she said, “I often wonder what kind of woman Alex would have become. But I know she’d be a wonderful daughter and a loving sister to her older brother Patrick.” Had she lived, Alex would be 18.
Her legacy, of course, continues. Plans are already underway for L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade 2015. It’s just one of the events the foundation holds each year and they’re open to producing more. If you’d like to hold a Lemonade Stand or another type of event, ALSF can provide a fundraising coach as well as public relations support. For more information, visit alexslemonade.org/.