Global Gourmet Games

Gourmet Games Kick Off Milken Institute Global Conference



Zucchini a fruit? Trans fat in a Sara Lee cheesecake?

These are just two of the things guests learned at the Global Gourmet Games, the fundraiser that kicked off the 4-day Milken Institute Global Conference, which ran May 1-4 in Los Angeles.

An extraordinary annual event, the Global Conference attracted 3,500 people from 55 countries and included such high-profile names as Tony Blair, Al Gore, Vicente Fox, Tom Hanks, Brian Grazer, Jessica Alba, Seth Rogen, Goldie Hawn, Cher, Maria Shriver, Sean Penn, Russell Simmons, Kobe Bryant and Rosey Grier, among speakers and guests.

For the Apr. 30 kick-off, more than 300 guests competed, table against table on questions of food, wine and trivia with proceeds from the night’s ticket sales going to the Milken Institute’s FasterCures, The Center for Strategic Philanthropy and The Center for Public Health.

The scene: Acting as emcee, Michael Milken presided over festivities, changing throughout the evening from top hat to toque, turban, feathered headdress, Korean gat hat, towering stovepipe and more.

In keeping with the night’s Orient Express theme, servers dressed as train conductors; table assignments came on train tickets; and a video combined film clips of classic train sequences. 

The competition: Course by course, guests chose from an array of specialties, which they ranked for calories, fat content and other traits. For the wines, they tested their knowledge against wine experts, guessing prices and sorting for countries of origin.

And lest anyone feel too confident, actor Bob Odenkirk said in a video: “Everything you know about wine is exactly wrong.” 

All was not lost, however, for those who lacked food savvy, as enthusiasm also earned a prize.

Nor was it necessary to taste everything. John Salley, for one, stuck to the vegan choices. “There’s no reason an animal has to die for me to live,” said the former NBA player, who – at 6’11” – stood out in the crowd. 

The cause: “Anyone who is diagnosed with a life threatening disease always wonders, ‘Are you going to see your kids grow up? Are you going to see them get married? Are you ever going to see grandchildren?” Milken said, speaking of his own experience with cancer.

“For Lori (Milken) and me, it’s now 22 years since they told me I was going to pass away and yes, we’ve seen all our kids get married and today we have our entire baseball team of 9 grandchildren.”

Milken then spoke of the many millions of other Americans, now living normal lives after having had cancer, thanks to advances in medical science. “The potential for so many diseases is in front of us,” he said.


Top photo: Mike Milken acted as emcee for the Global Gourmet Games, wearing many hats throughout the evening (photo, Paul Bliese/ courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation)

Second photo: From left, Mike Milken spends a moment onstage with former NBA player John Salley (photo, Paul Bliese/ courtesy of the Milken Family Foundation)




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Global Gourmet Games 2016

Published May 12, 2016 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA