Chef Suzanne Goin is cooking something special next week — and she’s rallied some well-known friends to help. On September 29, the chef/owner of Lucques will host the third annual L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade event along with partners Caroline Styne and David Lentz to raise funds and awareness for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, an organization devoted to childhood cancer research. As proud sponsors, we at Williams-Sonoma got the inside scoop from Goin.
“We invite all of our favorite chef friends and make the presentation soulful, like a big cookout,” she says. “Outdoors, sitting on the lawn, listening to music — we call it a ‘decadent chefs’ cookout.’ It takes time and energy and work to make it happen, but it’s something we feel so good about.”
Alex’s Lemonade Stand was born in 2000, when a young girl named Alex, fighting with childhood cancer herself, decided to hold a lemonade stand to help doctors find a cure for the disease. True to her word, she did just that, raising $2,000 that year. In 2004 Alex passed away at the age of eight, having reached her goal of raising more than $1 million through her annual lemonade stands.
Alex’s work continues with her namesake foundation run by her parents, which is now one of the leading pediatric cancer charities in the US. It has raised $55 million for childhood cancer research through a grassroots movement, including both larger ticketed events and simply “kids holding lemonade stands and sending in $16,” says Goin. The L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade benefit is held in support of the cause, raising over $400,000 last year.
At this year’s event, forty of the top chefs and mixologists from across the country will serve food and cocktail tastings as part of a cookout at Culver Studios, including culinary stars such as Giada de Laurentiis and Michael Voltaggio. Goin kicked off the benefit in 2010, after attending another fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand headed by Chef Marc Vetri in Philadelphia. She and Lentz, her husband, heard Alex’s mother Liz Scott tell her daughter’s story and were instantly moved.
“We were sobbing,” says Goin. “It was so incredible and powerful to think about a child who could see through her own pain and look to do something greater. It was incredibly inspiring.”
When they came home that night, Goin and Lentz decided to hold their own event in Los Angeles. The first year, every chef they invited to participate said yes, and they’ve invited the same people back — plus a few more — every year.
“It’s an amazing group of people,” Goin says of the chefs, which include April Bloomfield, Donald Link and Nancy Oakes, to name a few. “Everybody’s there to do the best they can for this cause and to have fun. They are all lovely people besides being amazing chefs.”
And the food? Guests will enjoy Cajun sausages and mortadella hot dogs, sandwiches filled with Ipswich clams and short ribs, fried chicken and homemade pop tarts.
The event also boasts an impressive roster of celebrity guests. Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are honorary hosts, while Jimmy Kimmel acts as emcee. Actors from Criminal Minds, Parks & Recreation, The Office and Girls will attend, as well as Laura Dern and Timothy Olyphant. And Goin is particularly excited about this year’s performance by Michelle Branch.
Auction items are bigger this year than ever before, including a trip to Singapore and Bali, as well as a Women’s Chef Dinner featuring Giada de Laurentiis, Nancy Silverton, Alice Waters, Sherry Yard and, of course, Goin herself.
“We felt the energy of it and got inspired and did something,” she says. “The same thing happens to other people. Once you’re a part of it, you’re hooked — you want to do more.”
Williams-Sonoma will be lending our support at next weekend’s event as a Chef Sponsor. Join us by purchasing tickets here!