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GrowingGreat Holds Farm to Table Gala in Manhattan Beach

Jul 14, 2014 02:56PM ● By DigMB Staff

Michael Zislis, left, and Peggy Curry, Manhattan Beach resident and co-founder and president of Growing Great, for their ongoing philanthropic smile for a camera at the non-profit's Farm to Table gala Saturday night in Manhattan Beach.

More than 200 friends and supporters of GrowingGreat had a distinctly wonderful time Saturday night at the non-profit's first Farm to Table dinner gala held at an estate in Manhattan Beach.

Complete with vineyard, edible gardens, water features and beautiful grounds, the estate of David and Cindy Hoag was the perfect setting for the non-profit's first Farm to Table event.

The occasion marked the honoring of philanthropists and restaurateurs Andrea and Michael Zislis with GrowingGreat’s 2014 “Green Fork” award. South Bay farmers’ market pioneer and leader in community and school gardens Mary Lou Weiss was honored posthumously.

Local celebrity chefs David LeFevre (Manhattan Beach Post and Fishing With Dynamite) and Alan Jackson (Lemonade) demonstrated cooking techniques with fresh, flavorful ingredients.

In addition, guests were treated to wine tastings, a farmers' market sampling table and appetizers from Chef  Dustin Lewandowski of Wolfgang Puck – MGM Grand.

Manhattan Beach caterer The Ripe Choice, helmed by chef Tammy Lipps, provided a locally sourced, family-style farm to table meal under the stars, Chef Tammy served an assortment of sweet and savory breads with house made jam; arugula, watermelon, cucumber, red onion salad with pepitas and chipotle honey vinaigrette, a quinoa and grilled vegetable salad, avocados stuffed with black rice, mangoes and scailion with a cilantro lime vinaigrette, and a house-rubbed brick chicken with grilled peaches 

Chef Stephanie Franz of The Strand House prepared dessert for the evening, which included a silent auction and live auction hosted by local celebrity JD Roth, concluded with a special awards ceremony honoring the Michael and Andrea Zislis and Mary Lou Weiss. 

“This benefit is a celebration of healthy eating, supporting local farmers and enjoying whole, close-to-the-source foods," said Peggy Curry, GrowingGreat president and co-founder.

GrowingGreat, which began in Manhattan Beach and is still based in the city, has inspired more 250,000 children and their families to lead healthier lives in its 15-year history. The organization is a school garden and nutrition education organization dedicated to inspiring children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits.

“Growing Great has been a subtle hero in Manhattan Beach schools for 15 years," said Ellen Rosenberg, member of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District board of trustees. "The edible gardens, harvest fairs, farmers' markets, and seasonal fruit and vegetable tastings expand students’ awareness of and appreciation for healthy, fresh foods.” 

Said Chef LeFevre, "I'm proud to be supporting GrowingGreat again this year. It's an honor to work with such a dynamic organization and continue to provide the tools and education that young students need in order to learn healthy eating habits. As a kid I was lucky to have an adult show me a farmers’ market and get to pick vegetables growing straight from the ground. Vegetables don't have to be canned, mushy and flavorless. They can be bold and exciting and full of great texture. It's imperative to teach kids about real food and healthy eating, now and for generations to come." 

Some of the evening's guests included Manhattan Beach residents Pauline and Derk Saltzmann, Valerie Maxwell and Scott Wilson, Jayne Justice, Carolyn Seaton, Nancy Hersman, Kris Mackerer D'Errico and Tony D'Errico, Les Silverman, and Michael and Andrea Zislis. Other attendees included Mickey Marraffino, Cyndi McMaster, and Jason Shanks, owner of Nikau Kai Waterman Shop in downtown Manhattan Beach.

Established in 1999, the organization currently serves more than 30,000 students per year, operating in 67 schools in 17 school districts.Its curriculum is also implemented in Northern California, Nevada and Hawaii.

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