Chef Bruno Serato expands ‘feed the children’ to his hometown, Huntington Beach
HUNTINGTON BEACH Restaurateur Bruno Serato has finally brought his philanthropy home. The 20-year Huntington Beach resident is expanding Caterina’s s Club, his nonprofit that feeds children in need, to two sites in his adopted hometown as well as Fountain Valley.
He will hold a ceremony during the afternoon feedings at 4 p.m., Tuesday, August 22, at the Boys and Girls Club of Huntington Valley site at Golden West College, 15645 Gothard St.
“I’ve been trying for a long time,” Serato said of opening in Huntington Beach. “Finally the Boys and Girls Club opened the door. A big thank you to them for that.”
Tanya Hoxsie, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Huntington Valley, said she received a message from Ed Arnold about Serato’s interest and coincidentally met the chef the next day at a Rotary Club event.
“After that, it came together quickly,” Hoxsie said.
Serato recently began feeding children in San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita and Aliso Viejo as well. He said the club feeds kids in locations in Orange County as well as Long Beach and Los Angeles. He has also visited other states and traveled internationally to share his expertise and advise feeding programs.
Although the formalities will be conducted Tuesday, Caterina’s Club has been delivering the meals in Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley since early June.
The meals are simple: bowls of pasta with sauce, either marinara, with chicken or Bolognese.
But the first run was less than smooth.
The original plan had been to prepare the meals on-site at the Boys and Girls Club. That’s when Hoxsie said she learned preparing pasta for 200 kids wasn’t as easy as it looked.
“We set off the fire alarms,” she said. “We convinced the kids it was a fire drill.”
Since that hiccup, the meals have been prepared by Serato’s team in Garden Grove.
At Huntington Valley, Serato feeds about 500 kids daily. That brings the total number of children being fed each day by the organization to about 3,500, he said.
Both Serato and Hoxsie noted that the feedings can be especially important in summer, when many kids do not receive school lunches and are hungry by the time the meals arrive in the middle afternoon.
“It’s been the most amazing addition, because the kids don’t have to go home hungry,” Hoxsie said.
Although some of the areas Serato services are in affluent communities, he said, “there is need in every city in America.”
No matter how affluent the community, Serato says it is not unusual for him to meet children who ask for extra servings to bring home to their families.
For Serato who spent his youth in poverty in Italy during World War II, food is elemental. He said it was not uncommon during his childhood to have only milk and leftover bread for dinner.
“When there’s food on the table, it makes you happy,” he said.
Caterina’s Club is named after Serato’s mother, Caterina, who fed starving German troops retreating home from the war. When Serato became aware of low-income families living full-time in Anaheim motels he started the program in 2005 to feed them.
Serato’s charities have extended to move “motel families” into permanent housing and he launched a Hospitality Program, which seeks to steer at-risk high school students to opportunities in the food, hospitality and service industries.
Among his many honors, he was named a CNN Hero and knighted by the Italian government. He also received a papal blessing from Pope Francis and a humanitarian award on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, as well as numerous proclamations.
A native of Italy, Serato opened his popular White House restaurant in Anaheim in 1987. The restaurant is being renovated after a February fire gutted the 1909 neoclassical building.
Over the years, Serato has fed celebrities, athletes and dignitaries including residents of the “other” White House, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush.
However, since starting Catrina’s Club, he said those other meals pale in comparison.
“I had not idea it would be like this. No way” he said. “It is beyond my imagination.”
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