All fired up: a cook-off for a cause

This story originally appeared in the Napa Valley Register.

Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios and owner of Napa Valley-based Frank Family Vineyards, can add grill-master to his title. Recently in Los Angeles, where Frank currently splits his time with Napa, Frank not only poured his wines but he got behind the grill in a cook-off to raise money for Affordable Living for the Aging.


Affordable Living for the Aging, founded in 1978, is a nonprofit dedicated to assisting homeless and low-income seniors. Los Angeles has a chronic homelessness problem. While there are various programs throughout the city that are dedicated to helping the homeless, ALA focuses exclusively on seniors.

According to the ALA website, one-third of Los Angeles’ 1.2 million older adults are don’t have reliable housing today. That number is expected to double in 10 years.

“Los Angeles is facing a crisis with our homeless populations,” explained ALA President and CEO David Grunwald. “This is work that needs to be done. We do not realize how many elderly need homes.

“Seniors are especially hard hit because they are often overlooked and underfunded, and so we work to provide affordable and permanent housing solutions through our programs. This event helped raise funds to mitigate the devastating effects of housing instability in our city.”

ALA supports seniors who range along the spectrum of homelessness, from the at-risk to the chronically homeless with a range of programs.


Frank, a supporter of ALA, had a running joke with Grunwald that the other is a better griller. Eventually they decided to challenge each other. The heated cook-off was turned into a charity cook-off fundraiser to benefit Affordable Living for the Aging.

Frank grilled baby-back ribs and wings and Grunwald grilled Brazilian picanha. Theyinvited TV personality, author and celebrity chef Stuart O’Keeffe to join them to compete for the title of best grill master. O’Keeffe, whose specialty is “quick and easy”, served a Port wine marinated skirt steak, a recipe from his book “The Quick Six Fix: 100 No-Fuss, Full-Flavor Recipes – 6 Ingredients, 6 Minutes Prep, 6 Minutes Clean-Up.”

The son of a wholesale meatpacker from Brooklyn, Frank is a fan of grilling and sees it as an activity that encourages socializing and camaraderie. He loves grilled ribs with a couple of bottles of zinfandel, one for while he cooks and one for the meal. But after a day behind the grill, Frank said that “cooking all day was the hardest thing I ever did.”


In all honesty, each of the grilled dishes was delicious. It was hard to pick a favorite but he winner of the cook-off, crowned “King of the Grill,” was Chef Stuart O’Keeffe. “I am so excited and honored to work with ALA for this great cause,” he said. “I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over 10 years and have seen homelessness in front of me. I am thrilled to be able to help ALA raise funds for this worthwhile mission.”


But the real winner is the elderly. Elderly people have so much to give. Some of those who have benefited from ALA were volunteering at the fundraising event that took place at a private home. More than $30,000 was raised to help seniors will be safe, secure and able to live productive lives.

“ALA is really fortunate to have chef Stuart and Rich Frank helping to raise awareness for our cause,”  Grunwald said.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.