Palm Desert Food & Wine Celebrity Chef Reception

Great Food, Art, and Architecture Collide at Celebrity Chef Reception

Palm Desert Food & Wine guests meet celebrity chefs in an ambiance where artistry shines.

Janice Kleinschmidt Restaurants

Palm Desert Food & Wine Celebrity Chef Reception

Palm Desert Food & Wine participants: Zac Young, Tyler Florence, Lisa Dahl, Aarti Sequeira, Jamie Gwen, Afrim Pristine, Glynis Albright, Gale Gand, Yolanda Gampp, and Curtis Stone.

When some 185 guests arrived at Marc Walters and Yannis Bourodimos’ Palm Springs residence on Friday evening, greeters handed them an art guide describing sculptures, paintings, and prints on view throughout the house. Amid a stunning setting of architectural and design splendor, viewing the collection of works rivaled a tour of a contemporary art museum.

But the visual treat was an unannounced bonus of the soirée, which was in fact Palm Desert Food & Wine’s Celebrity Chef Reception with Curtis Stone, Tyler Florence, Zac Young, Afrim Pristine, Gale Gand, Jamie Gwen, Aarti Sequeira, Glynis Albright, Lisa Dahl, and Yolanda Gampp — five of whom provided hors d’oeuvres: potato rosti with garlic aioli and prosciutto (Florence), Amaretto shrimp (Gwen), “party” wings (Albright), crostini with peppadew cheese spread and olive tapenade (Dahl), and baklava cake (Gampp).

Palm Desert Food & Wine Celebrity Chef Reception
Guests enjoyed a variety of bites and cocktails at the Celebrity Chef Reception.
Palm Desert Food & Wine Celebrity Chef Reception
A private residence provided an intimate setting for the event.

“For me, the fun part [of hosting the event] is that I get together a lot of people ‘outside of the box,’” Walters said. “And I love cooking — look at my kitchen.”

Indeed, the open floor plan that opens to an exterior space with a mountain backdrop features a rectangular countertop that can be walked around inside and out. For this evening, the inside was manned by servers pouring wine and cocktails and a tasting of Garrison Brothers bourbon whiskey from Texas.

Palm Desert Food & Wine Celebrity Chef Reception
A full bar kept libations flowing.
Palm Desert Food & Wine Celebrity Chef Reception
Impressive art almost stole the show.

Bourodimos has his own connection with the culinary world — as a food stylist, food photographer, and recipe developer working with celebrity chefs in his native Athens, Greece.

“I was a finalist in the first Master Chef [competition] in Greece,” Bourodimos revealed. “I do food tours and host dinners for tourists,” he added, noting that the food industry with celebrity chefs exploring online platforms in particular has become increasingly global.

Florence was the only chef attending the reception in a white chef’s coat — embroidered with a “TF” on the right and “Miller & Lux, San Francisco” on the left. Between chatting with guests, he pulled out his cell phone to show pastry chef Gand of Chicago a video of a dessert at one of his restaurants.

“We have been friends for years,” said Gand, dressed in a bright print top over black slacks. “When someone opens up their fabulous home to the public and lets you hang out and meet and greet, that’s unique to Palm Desert Food & Wine.”

Palm Desert Food & Wine Celebrity Chef Reception
Tyler Florence shared stories with guests.
Foodies mingled indoors and out.

A contingent of eight Chicagoans who had met Gand at a previous iteration of the culinary festival looked forward to seeing her again, but their repeat attendance came down to other reasons.

“For me, it’s the confluence of good food and seeing an interesting example of architecture,” Woody McCally said. “I like seeing a house being used in an entertainment mode.”

Chicagoan Lucy Myers caught her opportunity to chat with Curtis Stone and called him “very personable.” At 6-foot-3-inches tell, Stone was hard to miss — dressed in casual white slacks with sunglasses tucked into the neck of his long-sleeve pullover and with a friendly smile, coiffed hair, and Australian accent that make women swoon. Myers admitted to having “a crush” on him after her son began watching him on the Food Network.

Curtis Stone mingled with fans.
Guests were wowed by the architecture.

Gregg Glaviano and Dan Melesurgo of Palm Springs live less than a mile from the Walters-Bourodimos house. Melesurgo bought tickets to the Celebrity Chef Reception as a Christmas present for Glaviano. The date of the event happened to fall on their ninth wedding anniversary.

“We love food and wine,” Glaviano said, noting that his Christmas present was a MasterClass subscription that Melesurgo plans to use to pursue baking. For now, they were reveling in the Celebrity Chef Reception.

“This house is a pleasant surprise,” Melesurgo said.

The geometric lines of the house seemed to point guests directly to the bar.

When the chefs were wrangled for a professional photographer group shot at the edge of the patio’s black, infinity-edged pool, several guests held up cell phone cameras to capture their own shots.

Watching was Cynthia Martens of Indian Wells, who met Stone at last year’s Celebrity Chef Reception, during which she told him how he had changed her life after she retired.

“I started watching his Take Home Chef show, and he posted his recipes online. Since then, I [have taken] cooking classes all over the world. When I told him about it last year, he looked at my husband and said, ‘You are welcome’ — and he seemed quite emotional.”

Friends were made over drinks.
Fruit and cheese were ripe for the picking.

Later into the event, cheese-expert chef Pristine, known for his sense of humor, deadpanned, “It’s OK,” while touring the master suite. But asked his impressions of the event, he responded in all seriousness: “When lining up to do the chefs photos, Curtis Stone is to my left and Tyler Florence on the right, and all these people there that I get to cook alongside — a moment like that is very special to me.”

Palm Desert Food & Wine continues through Sunday, March 26, at The Gardens on El Paseo in Palm Desert. For more information about the festival, or to purchase tickets, visit