20th annual Taste for a Cure raises over $1 million for UCLA

Event honored Fox Broadcasting Company's David Madden
UCLA/The chefs of Taste for a Cure: Tommaso Tarantino, Tanino Drago, Piero Selvaggio, Salvatore Marino, Giacomino Drago, Vittorio Lucariello and Steve Samson.

UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center Foundation (JCCF) held their 20th Anniversary Taste for a Cure fundraiser to benefit UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center on Friday, May 1 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. Over $1 million was raised—an all-time high fundraising record for the Taste for a Cure event!

The event honored David Madden, President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX), with the 2015 Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award, named in memory of JCCF supporter Gil Nickel, proprietor of Napa Valley’s Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel and Dolce wineries, who lost a courageous battle with melanoma in 2003. Dinner Committee Co-Chairs included CAA’s Joe Cohen, The Holman Group’s Jon Holman, Far Niente Winery’s Larry Maguire, UTA’s Jay Sures and Fox TV Group co-chairs Gary Newman and Dana Walden.

Taste for a Cure, the JCCF’s signature event to benefit UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center (JCCC), featured a VIP pre-reception, world-class wine and cuisine from LA’s top Italian chefs, an awards program, entertainment and live auction.

The intimate gala was emceed by New Girl’s Max Greenfield and featured a special musical performance from Empire’s breakout star, Jussie Smollett, as well as stand-up from Tom Papa, comedian and host of BOOM!, Fox’s anticipated new quiz show. Matt Bomer (Magic Mike XXL) presented Madden with his award. Attendees and supporters included respected business and entertainment leaders, celebrities, as well as wine and food enthusiasts.

Honoree David Madden reflected on the evening and what it meant to be honored: “Cancer is everywhere. My grandparents died of colon cancer and actually just a very short time ago my stepson’s best friend—who is 26—was diagnosed with testicular cancer. There is nobody who is not touched by cancer somewhere in their lives, so I’m very honored to be able to be here to raise money for the event, for the center, for the work that they’re doing. It’s a very meaningful organization and I feel proud to be a part of this evening.”

For Jussie Smollett, supporting JCCC meant a great deal to him personally, having lost his own father recently to melanoma. Before Smollett took the stage to perform, he confided to the crowd: “January 7th, 9 p.m.—a little show named “Empire” aired. January 7th, 5:58 a.m.—I lost my dad to melanoma cancer. To be here means more than anyone understands, so when I was asked to be here, I was honored. It’s such a horrible, horrible disease… tonight is the first time I’ve been anywhere with people that are actually searching and finding a cure, so I thank you and I’m sure that my dad thanks you.”

“We are incredibly proud of Taste for a Cure’s legacy and the tangible strides we’ve made in cancer research over the past 20 years,” said Dr. Judith C. Gasson, JCCC Director. “As we celebrate two decades of groundbreaking scientific advances, we also are thrilled to recognize David Madden. Madden has long been acknowledged for his talent and leadership in the entertainment business, but at Taste for a Cure we honor him for his dedication to our community. I am proud that our industry partners have been so keen to get involved in this important cause and I want to thank David and the co-chairs for their tireless commitment that makes this special event possible.”

Premier wines from prestigious Italian wineries and signature dishes from distinguished chefs were among the evening’s highlights. Famed Italian chef Piero Selvaggio acted as the curating chef for the evening. Other chefs involved included The Four Season's Vittorio Lucariello, Sotto’s Steve Samson and Zach Pollack, Il Pastaio’s Giacomino and Tanino Drago and Il Grano’s Salvatore Marino.

Participating wineries included: Ferghettina (Lombardy), Venica (Friuli), Jermann (Friuli), Abbazia di Novacella (Alto Adige), Franz Haas (Alto Adige), Tedeschi (Veneto), Allegrini (Veneto), Bucci (Marche), Pietracupa (Campagna), Allegrini (Sicily), Peitradolce (Sicily), Il Molino di Grace (Tuscany), Castello de Brolio (Tuscany), Renato Ratti (Piedmonte) and Marcarini (Piedmonte).

Over the past 19 years, the JCCF’s signature event has raised nearly $10 million for highest priority cancer research at UCLA, supporting work on such life-saving therapies such as Herceptin, Kadcyla and Ibrance for breast cancer; Gleevec and Sprycel for leukemia; Tarceva and Cyramza for non-small cell lung cancer; Avastin for colorectal cancer and lung cancer; and Keytruda for melanoma. In fact, this has been a landmark year for the JCCC as its faculty played key roles in the development of three therapies approved by the FDA in the past six months.

Taste for a Cure has long-standing ties to the Hollywood community. Supporters and attendees over the past 20 years have included Julianne Hough, Bob Iger, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth MacFarlane, Chris Martin, Lea Michele, Ryan Murphy, Ryan Seacrest, Sarah Silverman, Kiefer Sutherland and many others.