Chef Bruce Kalman Discusses All-Star LA Food Bank Benefit

By David Jenison on December 22, 2018

The hottest culinary event in Los Angeles this month is actually a fundraiser to feed hungry families, and fortunately for those in need (and unfortunately for procrastinating food fans), the event sold out almost immediately. Eat, Drink and Support will take place downtown on December 22 at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, and the proceeds will be used to serve many meals to hungry Angelenos this holiday season.

“Being a chef, I'm also about giving back,” says chef Bruce Kalman, who will give locals the first taste of his forthcoming Square Peg Pizza project with Tyler Anderson, who made up two-thirds of The Bears (with Joseph Flamm) on the 15th season of Top Chef. “There are so many worthwhile charities out there, and you have to hone in on what's important to you and what speaks to you. Anything involving children, hunger, childhood cancer... those things really appeal to me as far as wanting to jump in and help out as much as I can.”

In addition to the Kalman-Anderson pies, Eat, Drink and Support will feature an early look at Backbeat BBQ, a new smoked meats endeavor by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana fame. Likewise, Nick Shipp (a.k.a. the ‘mad scientist’ at Upper West) will handle the sides, while Scoop Italian Roots' Antonia Lofaso (an alum of Top Chef, Cutthroat Kitchen and Restaurant Startup) will serve pasta. To finish, Charm City Cakes chef Duff Goldman—whom many know from the Food Network reality show Ace of Cakes—will naturally bring the sweets. Culinary emcee Billy Harris (from the Billy Harris Dinner Series) organized the benefit with event producers Paul Vitagliano and K.C. Mancebo of Clamorhouse.

As to why this particular event appeals to him, Kalman continues, “When I got together with Dave Grohl and then Billy Harris, it just made sense to do something, especially around Christmas time. The LA Regional Food Bank serves the most insane number of meals to people in need. We're looking to raise $40,000 to $50,000 on this event so that’s a huge number of meals. I forget what the number was, but we are talking hundreds of thousands of meals."

Kalman, who started his culinary career at age 13 in a Jersey pizzeria, did a Square Peg pop-up in Connecticut recently, but this event will be its West Coast debut with the storefront coming soon.

“Square Peg is a casual, wood-fire pizza eatery and arcade,” he explains. “So we have all the vintage coin-operated games I grew up with. Being in the industry for more than 30 years now, I want to do something that's fun and that's obviously lucrative, and we have the fortunate luxury in this industry to make people happy. Square peg, round hole… when you look up the definition of square peg, it refers to people being misfits.”

For the event, the chef says he and Anderson plan to serve two types of pizza and meatball parmesan sliders, with meatballs being a signature dish from Kalman's four-year stint at Union Pasadena. Since his Twitter background image shows him at a Grohl BBQ, Kalman also has some idea of what the 13-time Grammy winner might be cooking up.

“I've helped him do a couple of these events,” he says. “I don't want to say [what people should expect], but I can tell everyone that it's delicious. He's a great cook. He's very into it. There are so many intricate details that people don't understand that make for a great barbecue. It's watching the fire, not getting too much smoke, rotating the meat and the process that you go through to handle it. Like every good pitmaster, he is so focused on the product. Of course, everybody is trying to talk to him, and he's great for talking to people, but he's also a great multi-tasker. He'll talk to somebody, but he'll be super laser focused on the meat and what's going on. It's very cool to watch.”

Those who missed out on Eat, Drink and Support tickets (note: there is still a waitlist) will have future opportunities to enjoy all the chefs' creations, but Kalman notes that this event isn't the only way people can help give back to the community.

“Going to the local missions and helping feed homeless people and definitely getting involved in food drives are all great ways to give back,” he says. “For the people who can't attend this event, they can still give on behalf of the event to help the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Or if you live outside Los Angeles, you can always give to your local food bank. Homelessness is a problem all over the country.”

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