Cook’s Tour highlights best in home and dining

Tickets are on sale for the 27th Annual Malibu Cook’s Tour on Saturday, May 11. The day-long event combines a tour of some of Malibu’s most elegant, eco-friendly homes, with gourmet fare from prominent local chefs. Proceeds will help fund the Malibu Methodist Nursery School, which counts on the event for much of its annual operating expenses.

Magnificent Malibu homes will open their doors again on Saturday, May 11, for the 27th Annual Cook’s Tour, inviting the community to stop by and see, as participating restaurateur Antonio Alessi said, “how we live, how we garden, how we share our lives.”

The identity of this year’s homes is a tightly guarded secret, but each shares a luxurious ocean view. Master Chefs Alessi and Paul Shoemaker will contribute to the menu for this year’s tours, which aim to raise $20,000 for the Malibu Methodist Nursery School.

The Cook’s Tour was the brainchild of nursery school director Kay Gabbard, who dreamed up the plan decades ago while looking to raise funds for playground equipment.

“A friend had done a similar tour down in Venice almost 30 years ago and we decided to do it better,” Gabbard said. “I had no idea if it would work, but we made a lot of money that year and just kept it going.”

The concept was simple. Corral four or five local homeowners and convince them to invite up to 350 strangers to their homes for the day. Badger local restaurants and caterers to provide refreshments at each stop, print maps for the guests (each year sees new and different homes participating) and demand that your congregation offer one family member to help out for the day (Gabbard says there are more than 80 docents on board this year). The “passports” allowing entry to the different homes are closely guarded secrets until the day of the event. Guests pick up their passports from Malibu United Methodist Church Saturday morning and can leisurely wend their way to the different homes, which are, as Alessi said, “like seeing Brad Pitt’s house. Or at least Brad Pitt’s neighbor’s house.”

At $65 each, passport tickets provide a day of entertainment and top-flight grazing from some of the more-well known chefs in the area.

Alessi, who runs Tra di Noi and the soon-to-open Mangia, is cooking again, as he has for years (his children attend the Malibu Methodist Nursery School). He says that it is his way to give back to the community.

“This is the biggest event of the year for the church and one of the best ways for the community to get together,” Alessi said. “It’s also a great way to showcase how our local farmers can provide real farm-to-table produce that is delicious. We’re so lucky to live in Malibu.”

One of those farmers is Larry Thorne of Thorne Family Farms. His strawberries will be featured in Alessi’s dessert at the Cook’s Tour – a crostada with vanilla crème and fresh berries.

Alessi will also offer his perennially popular dish, Orichetti di Parmesan, little ear-shaped pasta with a creamy Parmesan sauce, peas and shaved truffles – all tossed in a large Parmesan wheel.

Also featured during the tour will be Maureen McKee, the chocolatière behind Cacao Luxe. She believes that the best chocolates avoid any ingredient but variations of chocolate, with no preservatives, waxes or fillers.

Shoemaker, former executive chef of Bastide and Savory Malibu, recently opened Juicy Lucy in downtown L.A. His cheese-stuffed hamburgers, sriracha fries and salted caramel milkshakes are making history downtown. But the menus for the event are usually not published beforehand (Alessi couldn’t resist a leak of his own creations), so expect a surprise from Shoemaker.

Guests will also enjoy a cupcake- making demonstration, tastings of Malibu Olive Oil treats and gift baskets prepared just in time for Mother’s Day.

This year, Gabbard said all the homes have one thing in common: a fantastic ocean view. One has a classic overlook of the Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach, another overlooks the Santa Monica Bay “Queen’s Necklace.” Another views Ramirez Canyon and beyond to the ocean and the last overlooks Carbon Canyon and the Pacific.

Gabbard said the passports themselves are a collector’s item, providing maps, descriptions of the homes, recipes, photos and tributes from past participants.

The good news is that the tours generate about $20,000 a year for the Malibu Methodist Nursery School. Beyond playground equipment, the tour has funded school scholarships and infrastructure support for the church.

“You start at one end of Malibu and go to the other side,” Gabbard said. “It’s fun and you see a lot of things you don’t normally get to see.”

Tickets for the 27th Annual Cook’s Tour on May 11 are available at: More information is available by calling (310) 457-5144.