Chefs for Human Rights LA grew out of a conversations with Human Rights activists in California and their close social connections and histories with a group of notable chefs in Los Angeles.
Chefs Bryant Ng, Nancy Silverton, Josh Loeb, Niki Nikayama, Ray Garcia and Zoe Nathan together with winemaker Mimi Casteel stepped up together to tackle these problems in a tangible way.
Theirs was an answer to pressing contemporary social issues in their own city for those seeking asylum status which may take at least three years through the legal and bureaucratic process before these people can begin a new life in a new country.
The chefs shared Bryant Ng’s kitchen at Cassia and Casteel poured her wines for a crowd of LA guests who paid admirably for a seat at their table last month in October at Cassia in Santa Monica with all proceeds going to Programme for Torture victims.
The event at the award-winning Cassia restaurant in Santa Monica raised over $100,000 for the Los Angeles-based, non-profit organization Program for Torture Victims, which heals and rebuilds the lives of torture survivors from over 70 countries. 100% of the proceeds from ticket sales went directly the organization-a rarity for many fundraisers.
PTV Board of Directors Member and Cassia co-owner Kim Luu-Ng and her husband and Cassia Chef Bryant Ng gathered some of Los Angeles’ most celebrated culinary talent-Mozza’s Nancy Silverton, n/naka’s Niki Nakayama, Broken Spanish’s Ray Garcia, and Rustic Canyon Family of Restaurants’ Co-Owner and Head Baker Zoe Nathan-who all donated their time to cook an incredible eight-course, family-style dinner. Influential figures in the entertainment, music, tech, fashion, and business worlds, such as actresses Angela Bassett, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Sharon Lawrence; designer Chan Luu, Interscope’s A&R President Aaron Bay-Schuck, Boingo CEO Dave Hagan, and philanthropist Michele Soon-Shiong attended the event.
Dissident blogger, human rights activist, and 2013 International Women of Courage Award-winner Ta Phong Tâ`n shared a tearful story about her experience being jailed and tortured in Vietnam for four years (the U.S. State Department facilitated her release in September 2015). Many may remember her mother self-immolated to protest her arrest in July 2012. Honorary guest, USC English Professor, and 2016 Pulitzer Prize recipient for his book, The Sympathizer, Dr. Viet Thanh Nguyen delivered a speech that raised further awareness about the prevalence of torture in our world, and a call to action. Guests were also treated to an acoustic performance by Billy Rafoul, whose album is dropping in 2017 by Interscope, while actress Dawn Lyen-Gardner (Queen Sugar) and TV host Quddus Philippe (“The Q Side”) energetically rallied the crowd in a live art auction to raise additional funds for PTV.
Given the current global refugee crisis, this fundraiser was particularly timely. There are roughly 1.3 million torture survivors living in the U.S., and Los Angeles is the largest port receiving refugees and asylum seekers to the U.S. Since PTV’s inception in 1980, they have helped rebuild the lives of over 10,000 survivors and their families that now call LA home.
The event created a buzz in the US and there is hope that it could spread not only in the US but also globally. Watch the video of the invent here.