Mainly Mozart

Culinary Director Claudia Sandoval

On March 22, 2024, arts non-profit Mainly Mozart will host its annual gala at the Julep Venue in Mission Hills. This fundraiser though, promises to be unlike any fundraiser you have experienced before.


Mainly Mozart’s “Culinary Concerto” Gala will be curated by MasterChef winner and judge Chef Claudia Sandoval, who will serve as Culinary Director. The event will bring together 24 celebrity chefs from across the United States and Mexico including: Michelin Star chef Drew Deckman, senior chef at Jean-George and Top Chef contestant Angelo Sosa, and television host and restaurateur Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien. Each table will showcase one celebrity chef, who will prepare a luxury, 4-course dinner table-side along with wine pairings.

The evening will also feature a live performance by violinist/vocalist and Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak, who will be giving his first ever public performance in San Diego. Rybak won the competition representing Norway, and his season of Eurovision was viewed by nearly 180 million people.

If you are only recently hearing about Mainly Mozart, you are not alone. The non-profit – established in 1988 – has long been a staple of the San Diego arts scene, but it is only in the last several years that the organization has shed its moniker of “Best Kept Secret” (ascribed by publications including the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Classical Voice). In July 2020, Mainly Mozart made national headlines when it became the first arts organization in the country to perform live classical music in front of live audiences after the COVID pandemic began (as first reported by Newsweek Magazine) with a socially-distanced, drive-in concert at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Since then, ticket sales and audience numbers have exploded, with near 500% growth in average nightly attendance.

Mainly Mozart is best known for its Mainly Mozart All-Star Orchestra Festival, which has drawn international acclaim as the largest gathering of concertmasters and principal players in North America. Every year, the organization gathers top musicians from the nation’s leading orchestras (including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic and dozens more), to perform under the baton of Mainly Mozart’s Music Director Michael Francis.

Mainly Mozart also fields a full youth orchestra, providing music education to nearly 350 students across San Diego County. The organization is known for its strong scholarship and inclusion program, wherein no student who applies will be denied entry for lack of funds or neurocognitive differences.

The organization also has a long history of work in the autism community, with collaborations including Autism Society San Diego and Art of Autism. Its long-running Mozart & the Mind series brings world renowned neuro-researchers together to discuss the connection between music and the brain as well as its applications to autism treatment.

For the past twenty-five years, Mainly Mozart has taken its programs south of the border as “Mozart Binacional.” In Tijuana and other municipalities of Baja California, Mainly Mozart has sponsored music camps and master classes for Mexican student musicians, art competitions for youth, and in-school music assemblies for thousands of children.
The Culinary Concerto is led by Co-Chairs Erin Combs Pearl & Howard Pearl and Rhianna & Reggie White, as well as Honorary Chair Esther Nahama.

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Esteban Villanueva