Food & Drink | April 1, 2022 1:29 pm

This Weekend’s Your Chance to Sip Sake on the Rose Bowl Field

Some seriously good news: Masters of Taste returns after a two-year absence

Eats from Masters of Taste
Eats from Masters of Taste
Masters of Taste

Masters of Taste — the food festival that takes over the Rose Bowl with LA’s coolest chefs – is back and serving it up bigger and better on Sunday, April 3. But the man behind the magic wasn’t sure it would happen this year, with COVID-19 concerns still lurking around every corner. “It was questionable until a couple of months ago,” says Rob Levy, the creator and chair of the event. “It was this year or never again. We had to make a decision to move forward.” Perhaps most people would give up on such a massive undertaking in the face of uncertainty, but Levy is driven by more than incredibly tasty food — though that’s a noble cause in itself. The restaurateur doubles as a humanitarian and donates 100 percent of the profits from Masters of Taste to Union Station Homeless Services, which helps San Gabriel Valley’s unhoused population get off and stay off the streets. Union Station is one of the most successful and impactful organizations of its kind in the nation. And Masters is the only food festival in the U.S. to give back all of its profits.

In addition to owning The Raymond 1886 restaurant, a beloved Pasadena institution, Levy served on the board of Union Station for seven years. “My wife Leslie and I had been to one too many annual charity galas and we thought, wouldn’t it be great to create an amazing event that was actually fun and happened to impact the local community.” That was seven years ago, and Rob and Leslie’s idea of downplaying the “charity” and highlighting the “fun” proved to be a winner: The festival draws around 3,000 hungry Angelenos every year. “A typical gala is as big as the room you have it in. I thought, How about the field of the Rose Bowl? Most people haven’t walked the field — it’s cool.” 

This year, event-goers will roll through that sun-drenched field sampling the latest creations from more than 100 food and beverage wizards. It’s a something-for-everyone event, featuring vegan fare by True Food Kitchen, Lunasia’s stellar dim sum, Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, eclectic Mexican fare from Jose Acevedo of Mercado, and other scrumptious eats. There will also be a smattering of food trucks, along with enough enticing sweets from local patisseries and chocolatiers to draw in a steady stream of dessert-lovers throughout the day. Among the highlights are extra fudgy brownies from Bertha Mae’s and cakes from the award-winning Fantasy Frostings. 

New this year, Vanda Asapahu of Ayara Thai, a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, will be the first-ever female host chef, and a new Thai pavilion will grace the field along with other surprises. Local winemakers, brewmasters, and mixologists will ply guests with their signature drinks, culminating with the premiere of a Japanese “tiny house” bar from Beam Suntory on the 50-yard line. 

Perhaps inspiration will strike and guests will break out in spontaneous dance as happened one year, when 200 people began line dancing on the field. Is it the sake? The Peruvian tacos? Or the satisfaction of scarfing down delectable bites for a good cause? “It’s a phenomenon and taking on a life of its own,” Levy says. “We offered to return the money to all of the sponsors when we canceled the event two years ago because of the pandemic, but all of them said no. This year, not only did all of the sponsors return, but surprisingly all of the chefs came back too, and this was after a couple of really tough years for them.” Getting Masters up and running after the pandemic “was actually not crazy. We’ve got it figured out,” says Levy. “It’s always an amazing party on the field.”

Masters of Taste

April 3, 4pm–7pm

Pasadena Rose Bowl

This spring, more of LA’s favorite food festivals are back in action. These are our picks: 

626 Night Market Mini

April 9–10 and April 23–24; 1pm–10pm

1324 5th Street Santa Monica

Smorgasburg Los Angeles

Every Sunday, 10am–4pm

ROW DTLA, 777 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles 

No Kid Hungry’s Taste of the Nation

June 5, 1pm–4pm

Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd, Culver City 

Taste of the Eastside

April 22–24