Though I look forward to once again being in the presence of other art and culture enthusiasts in our local venues , I enjoyed The AbilityFirst Food & Wine Festival  from the comfort of my own home. This was the second time in the 47 years that AbilityFirst has hosted this event that it was offered virtually.

Proceeds from the festival and online auction directly benefit AbilityFirst whose mission is to support people with developmental disabilities to successfully transition from childhood to adult life.  With 95 years of uninterrupted service to the community, their programs provide after school enrichment programs, college coaching, employment preparation and training, build social connections and independence and offer opportunities to both participants and their caregivers to refresh and recharge through recreational activities.  Throughout the pandemic, their in-person and remote programming has kept individuals and families safe, all while staying connected and engaged.

Photo courtesy of

My VIP experience began with a DIY Pizza Kit delivered to my home from Blaze Pizza, along with a selection of Golden Road Brewing flavored beer Mango Wheat Ale, Fruit Cart Cucumber Lime Hard Seltzer and Citrus Hazy Pup IPA. Before the 6pm YouTube event, I prepared the DIY Blaze pizza by following a video tutorial online presented by Executive Chef Brad.

The pre-recorded virtual program began with a guided tour of the Golden Road Brewery showing and describing each step in the process including the malt barley silos, mash maker, barreling and production into packaged distribution of the cans of beer. It was pointed out that their use of cans is more ecological than bottles due to the increased amount of recycling.

Demonstrations included Nathan Baker, bartender at The Raymond 1886. making their signature cocktail Army and Navy cocktail, which is a take on a gin sour and Chef Jonathan Quintana preparing Al Pastor Tiger Prawns with an Achiote marinade.

Photo courtesy of the AbilityFirst, The Raymond 1886

Brief presentations featured Steve Brockmeyer, Chair Annual Fundraising Committee, Rachel Osterbach from the TV show “Born This Way,”  program participants Gregory Shuering, who is new Possibility Program, Michael, a participant from the Joan & Harry A. Mier Center, Darius Scott who is involved in the Supported Employment program, and Ronnie and Tony Mitchell speaking of the life experiences of their child CJ who has been in the Ability First program from age 7 and who is now 20 years old, and Edward Frutis, Program Supervisor at the Lawrence L. Frank Center who praised the life skill development success of participants he works with.

Supporters also included Victor M. Gordo, Mayor of Pasadena and Hilda L.  Solis, Chair of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and restauranteurs Gale Kohl, owner of Gale’s Restaurant and Armen Shirvanian and Takis Markoutsis, Co-Founders, Mi Piace Restaurant, supporters of AbilityFirst for over 20 years.

Richard Frank, Co-Chair of AbilityFirst Capital Program and Chairman of Lawry’s Restaurant talked about the facility’s renovation including the current need to raise $40K for shading and furniture for the outdoor patio that will get increased use in the summer.

The Ability First Food & Wine Festival was made possible through the generous support of 2021 Presenting Sponsor CHUBB, Bistro Sponsor Union Bank, and Café Sponsors CBB Bank and Rotary Club of Beverly Hills,

Participating Restaurant Sponsors are Gale’s, Lawry’s, Osawa. The Raymond 1886, Blaze Pizza, Golden Road, Mi Place and Chef Sponsors Bank of America, Los Angeles Board of Supervisors Hilda Solis, NFP Retirement, and Sierra Auto

Please consider donating to AbilityFirst to support them in continuing to touch the lives of more than 2,000 individuals and their families each year –

Mark your calendar for next years’ Festival on Sunday June 5th 2022