Santa Ynez couple to be honored at premier food and wine event
Kathie and Mike Gordon, co-founders of the Toscana Restaurant Group, are being honored at the 33rd annual “Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters.”
The Gordons are being recognized for their 30-plus year dedication to the restaurant industry at the organization’s annual premier fine wine and food event, which benefits a cause close to the Gordons’ hearts: the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
There are a total of six restaurants in the Toscana Restaurant Group family, including Nella Kitchen & Bar in Los Olivos, Bar Toscana in Brentwood, Nerano and BG in Beverly Hills, and S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez, where the Gordons now live with their Australian Labradoodle, Bruno.
Bruno can often be found scampering through the vineyard outside the couple’s front door where grapes are grown for their wine, Cocobacio, named after their beloved late pups, Coco(nut) and Bacio, according to a spokeswoman for the restaurant group.
“A Culinary Evening with the California Winemasters” begins at 5:30 p.m. May 14 at Warner Bros. Studios, Gate 7-Forest Lawn Drive, in Burbank.
Each year the California Winemasters take over the Warner Bros. Lot and line the backstreets with more than 50 international chefs, 75 of California’s finest wineries, and hundreds of silent and live one-of-a-kind auction items.
Throughout the years, the event has raised more than $34 million for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, whose mission is to cure cystic fibrosis and to provide all people with CF the opportunity to lead long, fulfilling lives by funding research and drug development, partnering with the CF community and advancing high-quality, specialized care.
“The Gordons know first-hand how crucial this type of attention can be,” said the restaurant group’s spokeswoman. “Mr. Gordon’s childhood friend has a granddaughter who was diagnosed with CF. Because of the research and level of care she received, she is now living an independent, productive life as a student at UCLA.”
All chefs from the Toscana Restaurant Group will be on hand sharing some of their most popular, beloved specialties, as will longtime family member Roberto Facciolla, general manager and partner of Toscana and Bar Toscana.
The executive chefs are Luca Crestanelli, S.Y. Kitchen and Nella Kitchen & Bar; Michele Lisi, Nerano & BG Lounge; Justino Quirino, Bar Toscana; and
Miquel Martinez, Toscana Brentwood.
Being named the honorary chairpersons for the California Winemasters event was a “humbling surprise, an unexpected, much-appreciated recognition” for the couple.
“When we opened Toscana, we took things one day at a time, never dreaming we would still be going strong three decades later, never dreaming five more restaurants would join our group and never dreaming or even thinking we would receive an honor like this. Our hearts are full, and we are so grateful for our devoted staff and loyal guests. Without them, this would not be happening,” said Mrs. Gordon.
In a news release, the spokeswoman said, “Theirs is a love affair, one steeped in good food, distinctive wines and all things Tuscan.
“In the mid-1980s, Mr. Gordon received a birthday gift that would change the trajectory of his life. It was a day spent with the legendary Wolfgang Puck, who taught Mr. Gordon how to eye the finest, freshest ingredients at a farmers market and how to use them to take his recipes to the next level.
“The experience proved to be the impetus for the couple to entertain the idea of opening their own restaurant, one that was authentically Italian. Armed with a notepad and camera, they took off for Tuscany, rented a villa in Greve in Chianti and immersed themselves in the foods, wines and traditions of the Tuscan region.
“Upon returning home to Los Angeles, Mr. Gordon summoned the skills and connections he honed as an entertainment industry business manager, while Mrs. Gordon, an award-winning writer and skilled landscape designer, immersed herself into the rigors of restaurant development at UCLA and called on the stamina she gained as a marathon runner to lay down the groundwork necessary to bring their dream to fruition.
“The Gordons partnered with their dear friend Doc Severinsen, and in 1989, Toscana opened on a corner in Brentwood, where a pharmacy once stood.” (Doc Severinsen is a jazz trumpeter who served as the band leader for “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”)
Recognizing the importance of education and gap funding, Mr. Gordon also co-founded the Gordon-Brown Fellowship. He partnered with magnet educator Maynard Brown, to form a nonprofit, which provides Los Angeles inner city graduating high school students with financial assistance for college, mentorships and internships.
To date, the Gordon-Brown Fellowship has afforded more than 200 high school students the opportunity to benefit from and enjoy a college education.
Between them, the Gordons have five children and 13 grandchildren.
“Building a family takes commitment,” Mr. Gordon said. “It takes nurturing, faith, hard work, and above all, love. While members of a family may have different tastes and personalities, they’ll always share a common bond.
“The same can be said for the family of restaurants known as the Toscana Restaurant Group.”