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Wednesday, Dec 7, 2022
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Eateries Fight Cancer on the Paramount Lot

It wasn’t a scene out of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” but there were plenty of people with healthy appetites July 13 as San Fernando Valley culinary companies — including Maria’s Italian Kitchen, Someone’s in the Kitchen and Stonefire Grill — descended on Paramount Pictures for the Concern Block Party. Since 1996, Los Angeles-based Concern Foundation has held its fundraiser on the Hollywood studio lot to collect money to fight cancer. This year, some 4,000 guests attended, with the goal to exceed last year’s $1.8 million raised for cancer research. The official 2019 theme was “California Dreaming to Conquer Cancer,” and so Concern Foundation rolled out the “orange carpet” to welcome guests to a vintage Golden State-themed event amid Paramount’s New York City facades. Studio backlot streets had more than 75 food and beverage vendors under the direction of Nancy Eisenstadt. Returning L.A. favorites included Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs, The Grill on the Alley, Bar Hayama, Factor’s Famous Deli, Ocean Prime and Fogo de Chao. Valley culinary companies also got in on the action. With a Van Nuys central kitchen, Maria’s Italian Kitchen saw all hands on deck as servers doled out two varieties of gluten-free pizza. Maria’s owner Madelyn Alfano and her husband, chiropractor Dr. Jeffrey Tucker, chatted with attendees. “When your community asks for support, you give back to your community,” Alfano told the Business Journal. Alfano, whose mother Maria founded Maria’s Italian Kitchen in 1975, also revealed that Maria’s Italian Kitchen has taken over Louisa’s Trattoria, the chain started three decades ago by Madelyn’s sister, Louisa Alfano. “I bought it back from the people she sold it to (in 1986),” Madelyn Alfano said. “We brought it back into the family.” Tarzana-based caterer Someone’s in the Kitchen, whose owner Joann Roth-Oseary was on hand, maintained an eager line throughout the event. “We have been a part of the Concern Block Party for the past 35 years,” said Someone’s in the Kitchen Vice President Jason Perel. “This year, we served BBQ pulled short rib sliders on brioche buns, sweet potato fries with Sriracha aioli, Mexican urban street corn and chocolate ganache brownies.” Meanwhile, Stonefire Grill’s team, led by Marketing Manager Rick Yalem, handed out plates of mesquite tri-tip, garlic mashed potatoes and BBQ chopped salad. “This annual event is always one of our favorites,” said Yalem, who works out of the company’s Agoura Hills offices. “We love meeting, seeing and speaking with (our fans). We also love having the opportunity to introduce others to our amazing food and unique brand of hospitality.”  Founded by Mary Harrigan, Stonefire Grill, currently run by her two sons, started out as Wildfire Grill when it launched in 1999 in Valencia but went through a name change with location No. 2 (West Hills) because a Chicago chain already held the name rights. “With the recent onslaught of wildfires, it looks like we made the right decision,” Yalem said in retrospect. Also spotted at the event: Samba Brazilian Steakhouse, of Universal City.

Michael Aushenker
Michael Aushenker
A graduate of Cornell University, Michael covers commercial real estate for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. Prior to the Business Journal, Michael covered the community and entertainment beats as a staff writer for various newspapers, including the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, The Palisadian-Post, The Argonaut and Acorn Newspapers. He has also freelanced for the Santa Barbara Independent, VC Reporter, Malibu Times and Los Feliz Ledger.
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