Food and fun for a good cause

Lifehouse’s Great Chefs and Wineries gala is Saturday

The Great Chefs and Wineries gala raises money for Marin nonprofit Lifehouse. (Photo by Drew Altizer Photography)
The Great Chefs and Wineries gala raises money for Marin nonprofit Lifehouse. (Photo by Drew Altizer Photography)

The annual Great Chefs and Wineries gala might just have found a more permanent home. This year, the event — which fundraises for Marin nonprofit Lifehouse — will be held Saturday at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Last year’s event, which raised $700,000, was held at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, and turned out to be a one-off. After five years at San Rafael’s Peacock Gap Golf Club, and 10 years at the old Fireman’s Fund campus in Novato, the event had outgrown nearly every event space in Marin County.

“They decided to turn the Craneway facility into pickleball courts, which came as a surprise. And then they decided not to,” says Jennifer Hudson, marketing and development manager for Lifehouse. “So, it’s been a little bit of a journey in that regard. We did really like Richmond but it just wasn’t going to work out because they weren’t going to have events there anymore.”

This is the 34th annual fundraiser for Lifehouse, a 75-year-old Marin nonprofit organization dedicated to providing support services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

This year's Great Chefs and Wineries gala is Saturday at the Festival Pavilion in San Francisco. (Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography)
This year’s Great Chefs and Wineries gala is Saturday at the Festival Pavilion in San Francisco. (Katie Ravas for Drew Altizer Photography)

This year’s event will feature rock legend and former Marin resident Huey Lewis, who returns as honorary chairman. Pride & Joy will perform and chef Heidi Krahling, owner of San Anselmo restaurants Insalata’s and Marinitas, will also return as the culinary host. (Hear more from Krahling on the most recent Barfly Podcast episode.)

“There’s just nothing big enough here in Marin County,” says Nancy Dow Moody, Lifehouse’s president and chief executive officer. “So, we moved it to San Francisco, to the Festival Pavilion building. We are expecting a sold-out crowd of over 500 people this year and we are really happy to be in this new building with so much space.”

Liquor sponsors for this year’s event include Marin’s Alamere Spirits and King Floyd’s Bar Provisions.

“This is our third year participating in Great Chefs and Wineries, and we are just happy to contribute in any way we can to such a great organization that does so much for so many people,” says Susannah Souvestre, co-owner of Alamere Spirits. “Us donating some of our vodka and gin is just a very small contribution to their cause.”

Souvestre also owns Zalta restaurant in Sausalito, and will soon open Suzette, a French bistro and café, also in Sausalito.

“Our first year participating was 2019, before the pandemic, then through the pandemic virtually, and then last year in Richmond,” says Lawrence Batterton, owner of King Floyd’s. “It’s such a great organization, which does so much good work. We can contribute to the developmentally disabled community and have fun doing it. Plus, it’s aptly named — Great Chefs and Wineries. That aspect is really fun, tasting all the wines and eating all the different food. It’s also a great way to touch base with all of our local restaurants. And it all goes to a good cause.”

King Floyd’s is donating a 12-person tasting/tour/cocktail party to the auction this year and is also providing gift bags for all of the vendors, too.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” Batterton says.

The gala highlights 25 Bay Area restaurants including Marin favorites such as the Buckeye Roadhouse, Copita Tequileria y Comida, Sam’s Anchor Cafe and Sushi Ran. Twenty-seven wineries are represented, from the Marin County-connected Brooks Note, Kendric Vineyards and Pride Mountain Vineyards to Napa Valley powerhouses like Silver Oak and Michael Mondavi.

“Winery participation is threefold,” says Sid Sall, Lifehouse’s longtime wine committee chair. “One: giving back to Lifehouse to support their programs and their clients. Two: exposure to the demographics of the attendees because it sells out. And three: the cross pollination between the wineries and the restaurants supporting each other, recreating that synergy between them that was lost during the pandemic.”

“We are strong believers in supporting family-owned wineries,” Sall adds. “We are not looking for the big corporate ones.”

Red Whale Coffee, Fort Point Beer Company and the Republic of Tea will also provide beverages at the event.

Admission is $450. For more information, go to or call 415-526-5300.

Jeff Burkhart is the author of “Twenty Years Behind Bars: The Spirited Adventures of a Real Bartender, Vol. I and II,” the host of the Barfly Podcast on iTunes (as seen in the NY Times) and an award-winning bartender at a local restaurant. Follow him at and contact him at [email protected]


Marin County Vesper featured at Great Chefs and Wineries event

1 ounce Alamere Spirits London Dry gin

1 ounce Alamere Spirits French Wheat vodka

2 dashes King Floyd’s Orange Bitters

1 Meyer lemon zest

Combine vodka, gin and bitters in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until ice cold and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with Meyer lemon zest.

Note: Alternately, you can come see yours truly at the event and have all the above done for you.