Past Dinners

The Inaugural Dinner

The Inaugural Dinner


June 27, 2017

The Inaugural Dinner


In benefit of

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania

HIAS Pennsylvania provides legal and supportive services to immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from all backgrounds in order to assure their fair treatment and full integration into American society. The organization also advocates for just and inclusive public policies and practices.


Funds Raised
Refugees Sponsored


Ange Branca
Saté Kampar

Angelina Branca

Ange grew up in her grandmother’s kitchen where she learned the traditional techniques of Malaysian cooking, a cuisine that bears the influence of multiple cultures dating back to the 14th century when Malaysia was a spice trading hub. Though she grew up in a culinary family, she spent the first part of her career in business consulting, which landed her in the US. After years of living abroad, her nostalgia for the flavors of home coupled with what she perceived as a dying appreciation for humble Malaysian cuisine back home inspired Ange to open Saté Kampar, a restaurant focusing on saté (skewered meat grilled on coconut shell charcoal) and traditional Malaysian cooking made from scratch. The restaurant quickly became one of Philly’s top restaurants and was nominated for the James Beard Award.

The diversity of food and culture that Ange grew up with in Malaysia inspired the Muhibbah Dinners. From the open kitchen at Saté Kampar, she watches diners from different backgrounds enjoy dinner served in both halal and non-halal preparations: everyone feeling at home, comfortable and happy. The true feeling of Muhibbah — when people of multiple cultures, races and religions come together in peace and tolerance — is best appreciated when a good meal is shared. Ange started Muhibbah Dinners to bring together chefs of different backgrounds and cultures to celebrate the diversity with diners in Philadelphia.

Nicholas Elmi

Nicholas Elmi

Twice nominated Best Chef Mid-Atlantic by the James Beard Foundation, Nicholas Elmi is the chef/owner of Restaurant Laurel and ITV (In the Valley) Wine and Cocktail Bar. A native of West Newbury Massachusetts, Chef Elmi graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in some of the top restaurants on the East Coast (Le Bec Fin, Union Pacific, Oceana) and in the world (Guy Savoy, Paris). He is also the Season 11 winner of Bravo’s Top Chef.

Garnering national attention shortly after opening in November of 2013, Laurel continues to delight critics and neighbors alike, having been named the #1 Restaurant in Philadelphia by Philadelphia Magazine’s Top 50 for the past three years, and one of GQ’s 25 most Outstanding Restaurants in America. It has also been awarded the highest 4 bells from award-winning critic Craig Laban of the Philadelphia Inquirer, 3.5 stars from Trey Popp of Philadelphia magazine, and named a semi-finalist by the James Beard Foundation for Best New Restaurant in America. At this 22 seat gem on East Passyunk Ave, Chef Elmi and his staff focus on French inspired American Cuisine with a nod to regional tradition and contemporary flavors.

Pat O’Malley
Hungry Pigeon

Pat O'Malley

Born outside of Washington, D.C. into a huge Irish family, Pat became accustomed to sharing large meals from a young age. At 17, he enrolled into the Culinary Arts program at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, after which he held positions at Susanna Foo and ¡Pasion!. Pat then moved to New York to take up a baking position at Balthazar, followed by one at restaurant Morimoto. He ultimately returned to Balthazar Bakery as Pastry Chef, where he remained for the last eight years. Now back in Philadelphia after a 10-year break, Pat is excited to share a kitchen with his former colleague and good friend, Chef Scott Schroeder, at their Queen Village restaurant, Hungry Pigeon.

Tova du Plessis
Essen Bakery

Tova du Plessis

South African export Tova du Plessis grew up in a kosher Jewish home, braiding challah with her mother every Friday for their multi-coursed Shabbat feasts. While working at the three Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood, she met Michael Solomonov of Zahav and moved to Philadelphia for a sous chef position in The CookNSolo Group. Tova continued on, working at several top-notch Philadelphia restaurants, including Le Bec Fin, Zahav, and Lacroix. Most recently, she was the Pastry Chef at The Rittenhouse Hotel.

After the arrival of her daughter, Tova decided to realize her dream of opening a bakery with pastries and breads reminiscent of those she grew up eating but with a modern perspective. Essen Bakery is a cozy spot on trendy East Passyunk Avenue that serves up traditional Jewish staples like challah and babka, as well as an array of breakfast pastries, sandwiches, and toasts. Their chocolate halva babka has developed a cult following, and their “grown up” black and white cookies are not to be missed.

Sam Jacobson

Sam Jacobson

Sam Jacobson was born in London and spent his first two decades there. Within 3 years of an exploratory visit to the US, he graduated from New England Culinary School in Vermont and has been this side of the pond ever since. In 2015, he opened his quirky, Best of Philly-winning pie & mash shop, Stargazy, on East Passyunk Avenue. Sam was previously the Executive Chef at Sycamore BYOB in Lansdowne, which was named “Best New Restaurant in the ‘Burbs” by Philadelphia Magazine. During this time, Sycamore was named one of Zagat’s Top 5 restaurants in Philadelphia, and Sam was praised for his “wonderfully inventive” tasting menus.

Ben Wenk
Ploughman Cider

Ben Wenk

Ben Wenk is a seventh generation fruit grower in Adams County, Pennsylvania, where his family owns Three Springs Fruit Farm, makers of Ploughman Cider. Ben earned an Agroecology degree from Penn State College of Ag Sciences in 2006. Shortly after, he expanded the diversity of crops grown at Three Springs to support trips to regional farmers markets and local stores and restaurants. Late 2016 saw the debut of Ploughman Cider, a new venture to express the best of the farm through fermentation.

Saw Maran Tan

Saw Maran Tan was born and raised in Burma. In 1996, at age 23, he left his home and his family to escape the dangerous environment and limited opportunities for education, relocating to Malaysia as an undocumented worker. Maran, who scarcely knew cooking rice growing up, taught himself how to cook in the diverse kitchens of Kuala Lumpur. He endured thirteen undocumented years to gain a wealth of knowledge, skills, and experiences in the restaurant industry. In 2009, Maran started the long process of applying to be a refugee at a camp in Kuala Lumpur, and on February 20, 2014, he arrived in the United States through the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) of Pennsylvania. Maran has worked as a sushi chef for the past two years at a job that allows him to travel around the U.S. and to continue to learn and grow.


The Second Dinner


October 23, 2017

The Second Dinner


In benefit of

Nationalities Service Center

Nationalities Service Center

Nationalities Service Center prepares and empowers immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia region to transcend challenging circumstances by providing comprehensive client-centered services to build a solid foundation for a self-sustaining and dignified future.


Funds Raised
Refugees Sponsored

Seats are limited and non-refundable
Doors open at 6:30pm
Dinner commences at 7pm



Larry Krasner
Democrat for Philadelphia District Attorney

Civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner is one of Philadelphia’s most outspoken and highly regarded progressive attorneys. For 30 years he has been fearlessly demanding fair treatment and justice for Philadelphians of all backgrounds.

Larry Krasner believes in protecting immigrants while protecting everybody. He is dedicated to fighting President Trump’s anti-immigration agenda and increasing trust between immigrants and police — because cooperation is essential to law enforcement. As District Attorney, he will work to maintain Philadelphia as a “sanctuary city” and protect the Fourth Amendment rights of all residents, cooperating with federal authorities only to the degree required by law. Because legal proceedings can affect the status of immigrants and therefore relations between communities and law enforcement, Larry will take those effects into account when making prosecutorial decisions and setting prosecutorial policy. He will oppose renewal of ICE’s access to the PARS database, a city police database used by ICE to identify “deportable” immigrants.

Nina Ahmad, Ph.D.
Deputy Mayor of Public Engagement, City of Philadelphia

Nina Ahmad, Ph.D., believes in the power of people to make positive change and is an advocate for equity for all. Appointed as Deputy Mayor, Office of Public Engagement, she is the first Asian American woman to hold a Cabinet position in any Philadelphia Mayoral Administration.

Trained as a scientist, Dr. Ahmad applies her analytical skills in her present role to create an infrastructure of trust between community and its government. She received her Doctoral degree from the Chemistry Department, University of Pennsylvania and trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Thomas Jefferson University. She discovered the first direct evidence of collagen type II gene mutation in the Stickler syndrome (joint-eye disease), which expanded the field providing a starting point for molecular genetic research into the generalized disease of osteoarthritis. She is one of the patent holders of “Methods of detecting a Genetic Predisposition for Osteoarthritis”. She held a joint Assistant Professorship at Wills Eye Hospital and the Ophthalmology Department of Jefferson Medical College and subsequent Directorship of Molecular Biology of the Research Department at Wills Eye Hospital. She co-founded JNA Capital, Inc., a real estate development and finance company where she served as its Executive Vice President of Government Affairs after her academic career.

She was appointed by President Obama to his Advisory Commission on AAPI and was the 2016 Honoree of the Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition for her work facilitating full participation of immigrants and refugees in civic life in Pennsylvania. She is the former President of the National Organization for Women, Philadelphia Chapter, serves on the Board of the Philadelphia Foundation and other civic organizations. Just recently Dr. Ahmad was recognized by City & State PA as one of the 50 most prominent and accomplished leaders in government, business and media over the age of 50 who continue to make a positive impact on Pennsylvania through their achievements, leadership abilities, philanthropic efforts and dedication to the betterment of the commonwealth.

Mark Brown

Mark Brown enjoys a diverse musical career that has included playing roaring rock with Johnny Thunders at New York’s iconic Peppermint Lounge, funky roots music with Sleepy LaBeef at the Media, Pa Roots Festival, colleges, ski resorts, private events and some of the North East’s most cherished venues and festivals. He has had the pleasure of sharing the stage with some of his musical mentors including Jr Walker and the All Stars, Cab Calloway, NRBQ, Brian Setzer and Meatloaf. Venues include The Philadelphia Folk Festival, The World Café, and Johnny Brenda’s, as well as Toad’s in New Haven, Boston’s Charles River Festival, and many of the more intimate bars, pubs, and salons of Philadelphia.


Lynn Buono and Chris Nguyen
Feast Your Eyes

Chefs Lynn Buono and Chris Nguyen are the culinary team behind Feast Your Eyes Catering, Front & Palmer, and FAME. Coming from very different backgrounds, they find themselves simpatico in their love of bold flavors and world cuisines, and both believe that a professional kitchen can be a workplace that provides living wages and respects everyone involved. Having both been raised in family restaurants, they equate food with love.

Chef Buono worked in kitchens throughout her schooling in both the United States and Switzerland. Back in Philadelphia in 1976, she was part of the Philadelphia restaurant renaissance, and founded Feast Your Eyes, Inc., in 1980. In 2009 Feast Your Eyes moved to Front & Palmer, an event venue repurposed from a barrel factory, in the South Kensington Arts District. She is a past chapter president of both the Philadelphia Women’s Culinary Guild (founding member) and Les Dames d’Escoffier, and taught buffet design at the CIA.

Chef Nguyen discovered his passion for food as a very young boy at his family’s Vietnamese/Thai restaurant in York, PA. This was followed by formal training at The Restaurant School. He then added corporate experience to his resumé as an Executive Chef with ARAMARK, where he cooked for Columbia Tri Star Pictures and a host of celebrities. He joined Feast Your Eyes in 2014 and has overseen annual increases in his kitchen’s production while continually maintaining very high standards.

Lou Boquila

Lou BoquilaBorn in the Philippines, Chef Lou Boquila draws on his Filipino background for inspiration in the kitchen. He is passionate about creating innovative dishes and inspiring others to expand their palates. He wants to introduce the distinctive food he has known since childhood. As a young boy, Lou learned to appreciate his mother’s traditional cuisine, which sparked his interest in cooking. His experience began as a dishwasher at the renowned Knave of Hearts where he learned the operations of a kitchen. He then decided to continue his training at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and became an intern to Chef Kiong Banh of Twenty Manning. He started to develop his culinary techniques as he went from Line Cook, Sous Chef, and then to Chef de Cuisine of Audrey Claire in 2007. Along the way, Lou began to combine his culinary knowledge to best express his interpretation of Filipino food with a modern take. Named after his mom, Lou opened Perla in 2016 in the East Passyunk neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Adam Diltz
Johnny Brenda’s

Adam DiltzChef Adam Diltz grew up in Hetlerville, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where as a young child on food stamps, he realized the social, political and intimate relationships people had with food. After high school, Adam pursued his interest in cooking at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport, PA, where he studied culinary arts. After graduation, he realized that in order to pursue his craft to his fullest potential he would have to move to a city and experience the world outside of rural Pennsylvania. At 21 years old Adam left for Boston, MA, where he would work under Barbara Lynch at No. 9 Park. He continued his kitchen work and education with Jean Joho at Everest in Chicago, and at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. During his 20 years of experience in restaurants, hotels, catering, and pastry Adam has worked for three James Beard Award winning chefs. These experiences inspired him to return to Philadelphia seven years ago to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant. Currently the Executive Chef of Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown, Adam is working on opening his own restaurant, Elwood, named after his grandfather, which will focus on the history and cuisine of the Mid-Atlantic region.

Damon Menapace
Kensington Quarters

Damon MenapaceIn fall 2014, Chef Damon Menapace opened Kensington Quarters as its Executive Chef. Damon’s rustic farmhouse-style cuisine and his passions for whole-animal cooking, local sourcing, and old-world cooking techniques further the restaurant’s mission to support local and sustainable agriculture. His culinary background includes Vetri Family restaurants and other local favorites including Cochon and Prohibition Taproom.

Pete Angevine
Little Baby’s Ice Cream

Little Baby’s is a small-batch, hand-made, super-premium ice cream and non-dairy frozen dessert company born in Philadelphia and based in Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington, D.C. They specialize in unique and surprising flavors, made with either grass-fed, 16% butterfat dairy or a proprietary, completely vegan coconut cream base. They believe that ice cream is for everyone and that ice cream is a feeling.

Sandy Ruan
Philadelphia Distilling

Philadelphia Distilling is the first craft distillery to open in Pennsylvania since Prohibition. Philadelphia Distilling is the producer of Bluecoat Gin, an American Dry Gin formulated for the American palate that uses a proprietary blend of citrus to compliment the flavor of juniper. Philadelphia Distilling representative Sandy Ruan will be combining Bluecoat American Dry Gin with flavors inspired from her memories of  growing up as a first-generation Chinese American.

Shizhou Da
Dim Sum Garden

Chef Shizhou Da, founder and head chef of Dim Sum Garden, specializes in making fresh, homemade Shanghai style dim sum. She is 5th generation of one of the original chefs who created the original xiao long bao (soup dumpling) in China. In 2003 she came to the United States with the original recipe and over 30 years of experience.  After five years in North Jersey and New York, Chef Shizhou teamed up with her daughter Sally to bring Shanghai’s finest dumplings to Philadelphia. 2013 marked the year when the restaurant moved to its new location at 1020 Race Street. Here they have the daily pleasure of serving some of Philadelphia’s finest dim sum to their many guests.

Anney Thomas
Chaat and Chai

Anney Thomas is a veteran of the Philadelphia restaurant community and has worked at the  Commissary, White Dog Cafe and Feast Your Eyes Catering. However, she mastered her skills as a cook in her family’s home kitchen. Growing up in India and the United States, Anney watched and learned from her father’s traditional South Indian cooking. When Anney decided to open her own café, Chaat & Chai, the memories of his home cooking and of Indian street food were her greatest inspirations. In Chaat & Chai’s upcoming location at the newly renovated Bourse Building in Philadelphia’s Old City, Anney hopes to continue to serve inspired and reimagined Indian dishes.

Evan Inatome
Elixr Coffee Roasters and Cafe

Evan Inatome is the owner and founder of Elixr Coffee Roasters. Elixr’s vision is to share beautiful coffee experiences that elevate the individual while inspiring the community. With a background in the nonprofit sector, Inatome saw an opportunity to use excellent coffee as a vehicle for building community.

From sourcing and roasting to the experience and presentation, Elixr aims to do everything it can as best as possible. Inatome believes that it is better to do little with perfection than mediocrity en mass. With this mantra, since its inception in 2011, Elixr Coffee Roasters has distinguished itself as a premier specialty roaster in the Mid-Atlantic region by roasting in small, 10 kilo batches. While its batches are small, its vision is big; Elixr thinks globally by perennially sourcing beans via direct trade with farmers whose passion for coffee matches their own.

Elixr accomplishments include 2016 and 2017 US Coffee Roaster Championship finalist, Business Insider 50 best US cafes, Krupps best cafes in America, and Philadelphia Arts and Business Council small business excellence award.