Cook’s Tour raises $15,000

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Home sweet home. For some that means an 18,000 square foot villa perched on a cliff above the ocean. For others it’s a contemporary Mediterranean brimming with art and eclectic finds from world travels.

Four families opened their magnificent Malibu homes to the public Saturday afternoon for tours and hosted a progressive dinner of sorts, raising $15,000 for the Malibu Methodist Nursery School.

Guests lounged in lushly landscaped gardens, taking in the sweeping ocean views, listened to live jazz and nibbled on gourmet offerings donated by some of the area’s finest restaurants. The Marmalade Caf provided Thai salads and intriguing flavors of ginger beer. Sapori Cucina prepared generous helpings of focaccia capres sandwiches and tira misu. Chefs from the Gray Whale and The Regency Club offered cooking demonstrations. Last minute Mother’s Day shopping was convenient with gift baskets for sale and specialty boutiques featuring high quality hand-crafted items.

Kay Gabbard, director of the school, is the mastermind behind this popular event now in its 14th year. Selling tickets at $40 each, Gabbard said the tour proceeds provide scholarship money for families otherwise unable to enroll their children in the school.

“We want diversity and a variety of languages and cultures in our school,” said Gabbard. “So rather than continuously hound the parents for extra money, the Cook’s Tour is our one annual fund-raiser.”

When families sign up their children for school they sign a contract that states each family will provide one person to help with the event.

Saturday, 80 volunteers, made up of parents and friends of the school, reported for duty. Dads served as shuttle drivers in their sport utility vehicles to one of the homes with insufficient parking. Volunteers were staked out in every room of the homes on tour, acting as docents, keeping an eye on valuables and serving food and beverages. Still more volunteers were at the school providing day-care.

Among those volunteers deserving credit are the homeowners themselves, without which there would be no Cook’s Tour.

Ginna Nunnery gamely offered up her spacious hillside home when someone else backed out at the last minute. In the midst of opening her new Malibu boutique, Homespun Creations ‘n Craft Designs, Nunnery stopped everything to get the house ready.

“It has been a crazy week,” admitted Nunnery.

One of the outstanding features of this contemporary Mediterranean built in 1998 is the beautiful mahogany doors, which open out into travertine and wrought iron terraces in nearly every room.

La Dolca Vita for Lori and Ken Harges is their 18,000 square foot Italian style villa named Pacifica Venezia. Boasting more amenities than a four-star resort, Lori Harges said they built the house for entertaining. An elevator brings up guests from an 18-car garage. Floors and stairways are marble, painted garlands grace every arched doorway and a bar in the ballroom opens to a swim-up bar from the pool outside.

The Harges’ are a self-made American success story, and a gracious Lori Harges says she enjoys sharing her bountiful blessings with others. A tireless hostess, Harges stands in the middle of a cavernous kitchen slicing cucumbers for a dinner party scheduled to take place that evening. Sunday the villa would be making room for the four-footed guests of a kennel club.

“We started out with nothing,” said Harges. “My husband was a Marine and a laborer when I met him. But I’m glad we did it that way because I appreciate this every day.”

Russell and Lucia Nordstrom entrusted their home, La Casa Rosada, to the care of tour volunteers. The house, filled with eclectic furnishings and art from the owner’s travels around the world, was a popular stop.

“I can relate to this house a little more,” said Susie Homan. “Lighted candles in the fireplace, a saddle on the mantle, paint colors, are all ideas I can use.”

Many visitors on the tour make the trip annually, coming from as far as Orange County.

Jerry Ostendorf and Sheila Halcomb sat in garden chairs sipping Perrier and enjoying Ahi tuna appetizers freshly prepared by the chef from the Regency Club.

“We come every year from Manhattan Beach,” said Ostendorf. “It’s my favorite way to spend Mother’s Day.”

A fourth home on the tour was a rustic ranch style home on four and one half acres in Bonsall Canyon. The property includes stables, a riding ring, lighted tennis courts and three guest houses. The property is up for sale and was unoccupied. Guests lingered over Rigatoni Alfredo and Caesar salad prepared by chefs from the Grey Whale while relaxing among the lush gardens and expansive lawns. Work already began again on Monday for next year’s tour. Each year four new homes are selected. It takes a certain amount of salesmanship to convince a homeowner that having 300 people over for hors d’oeuvres will be fun.

“We invited a few people on the tour this year with houses we are interested in,” said Gabbard. “We want them to see how we do it.”

The homes are all treated with care and respect. Shoe protectors are given to guests touring homes with carpeting. Rooms are monitored, floors swept, trash removed. A passport and a map allowed guests to see the homes in any order they wish, so traffic flowed evenly and a singular home was never mobbed.