Mama’s Day event to support Mama’s Kitchen

Posted: June 6th, 2012 | Featured, News | No Comments

Downtown restaurant, The MerK Bistro, shows off new menu at fundraiser

By Anthony King | Downtown News

The 21st annual Mama’s Day fundraiser for Mama’s Kitchen was held on Friday, May 11 at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla. This year’s fundraiser featured over 60 restaurants, including several from downtown, showcasing food and drinks to approximately 700 guests.

Mama’s Kitchen is a non-profit organization that oversees the delivery of freenutritious meals to individuals affected by AIDS or cancer, and Executive Director Alberto Cortés said the annual event is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“Our goal and aim is to see that the cost of putting together an event like this makes it possible for the highest percentage of every dollar that we raise to go to mission-related activities,” Cortés said at the event. “Unlike most fundraisers, we are able to put almost 85 percent of every dollar that you spend today into mission-related activities.”

Mama's Kitchen Executive Director Alberto Cortes (center) with supporters at Mama's Day 2012. (Photo by Big Mike Phillips)

Attendees were able to bid on silent auction items, including private, catered concerts and hotel packages in local establishments, while sampling food and drinks. The Keating Hotel, located at 452 F Street, donated a hotel package for the auction, and their restaurant, The MerK Bistro, offered samples of their food.

Jesseca Crissey, public relations spokesperson for The Keating Hotel and The MerK Bistro, said in addition to the hotel package, the restaurant donated a catered dinner for the auction. “We’re always here and we love to give back,” Crissey said. “We love to be a part of this because it’s such a big event and it’s great that San Diego comes out … in such a large way.”

The MerK’s samples included a spring pea gazpacho and maple-glazed port belly, which Crissey said highlighted their menu perfectly.

“Everything we use for the restaurant is all fresh ingredients,” Crissey said. “We want to bring in more fresh ingredients so [we] can change [our] menu. … It’s representing what we have here. A lot of people always outsource and they don’t realize that here in San Diego we have so many different things going on.”

The bistro’s menu is not large, Crissey said, with only approximately 10 entrée items and a selection of appetizers. “We have lots of daily specials, so it’s always ever-changing,” she said. “It’s actually more fun that way. Our chefs [are] really great about making the different food combinations that you would not usually come up with.”

Earlier this year, The MerK unveiled their new menu, which was developed by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay was at the hotel and bistro in December 2011, filming episodes for his upcoming television show “Hotel Hell.” The show is set to premiere in June 4 on Fox channel 5.

While at the restaurant, Crissey said one of Ramsay’s influences was providing new recipes for their chefs to use. “From there, we took it to another level,” she said. “It was his inspiration.” In addition to The MerK, owners of The Keating operate Sway Lounge and Krust Pizzeria, which Crissey said was also influenced by Ramsay’s stay.

New this year for the Mama’s Day event were large-scale photographs on display throughout the room, showcasing people who are involved with Mama’s Kitchen in different ways. Event chairperson Heather Bowden spearheaded the photography exhibit and called the photographs “profound” and integral to the mission of the organization.

“The idea we had was to capture the essence of volunteers, clients and donors who support or are active with Mama’s Kitchen and [show] how profoundly everyone is affected by the work at Mama’s Kitchen,” Bowden said.

Also new was the pre-event VIP reception, where Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien and Ian Ward, a mixologist from Snake Oil Cocktail Co., gave a food and cocktail presentation before the main portion of the evening began.

Anthony King is the Editor of San Diego Community News Network (SDCNN)’s Gay San Diego. You can reach him at


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