MaxLove’s Fundraiser Recognizes Local Chefs While Offering Aid to Kids in Need

Written By: Sarah El-Mahmoud
Photographed By: Daniel Barrett Farm to Fork Dinner

Sundressed and bow-tied guests arrived on a tractor-pulled wagon up the green hills of Tanaka Farms to the 5th Annual Farm to Fork Dinner By MaxLove Project on Saturday. Attendees were greeted at the cancer charity event by a happy hour filled with cocktails, craft beer and an assortment of delectable appetizers. 

Puesto’s spicy ribeye tacos and Lido Bottle Works’ fall-inspired smoked burrata also served as unique finger food. Among them, a melt-in-your-mouth bluefin tuna crudo dish from Chef Blake Mellgren of Craft House. The bluefin was caught by Craft House’s frequent supplier, Harbor Fish Company, and topped with refreshing Asian pears, jalapeno and yuzu relish. 

“For this dish, my priority was to serve locally fresh—24 hours out of the water. It has good clean fats in it, local produce and creates what this charity embodies,” Chef Mellgren said. 

Chef Mellgren’s locally-sourced seafood has also graced charity events such as The Teen Project’s Table For Ten dinner. “We love to support how we can. The ethos of the project of food as medicine, eating clean—they are big proponents of the ketogenic diet,” Chef Mellgren said ahead of the charity dinner. “Without the community, I could not have my restaurant. This is the least I can do to give back.” 

Chef Mellgren particularly supports MaxLove for its message of clean eating. He’s passionately cooked with sustainable ingredients since opening Craft House in 2016 and has designed meals for Make-A-Wish and other causes close to his heart in support of the Orange County as a community leader. 

The Farm to Fork Dinner is a chef-driven, farm-inspired event held by MaxLove annually to raise money to benefit kids with cancer, childhood cancer survivors and their families. 

The project’s fundraiser received $486,000 in resources and pledges that night, becoming the most successful dinner for the project yet. The dinner was led by Chef Azmin Ghahreman of Sapphire Culinary Group. Guests broke leek and potato bread together in tradition and MaxLove Project Founder Audra Wilford kicked off the heartfelt charity festivities. 

“She’s a supermom, and she’s a hero,” Chef Ghahreman described of Wilford, who began MaxLove when her son Max was diagnosed with brain cancer. Classically trained in the culinary arts, she fell back to it to empower the message of embracing food as medicine. 

Many of the guests were families that found MaxLove through their child’s journey with cancer. Jill Chrapczynski joined after her daughter’s acute myeloid leukemia (AML) went into remission in 2012. 

“[MaxLove] provided so much for our family in terms of education and empowerment through their complementary and culinary medicine programs. [It helped] us understand how to help my daughter thrive after her treatment,” Chrapczynski said. 

Among the fruits of MaxLove’s labor is a mobile teaching kitchen donated to CHOC Children’s Hospital. Dietician Lexi Hall has been creating a curriculum with other hospitals to use. 

“There isn’t a culinary medicine program in the country that is devoted to pediatrics. We got to start one with this gift,” Hall said. “It’s pretty incredible.” 

While wining and dining, the guests raised bid paddles for big-ticket items such as a Bali vacation and Malibu glamping. Moms, chefs and such shared the stage with Wilford to be personally recognized and thanked by her. 

“We’re the only ones doing this,” Wilford said. “And if we don’t do it, who is?”

MaxLove Project 
805 West La Veta Ave, Ste 205
Orange, CA 92868

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