Generosity is the Main Dish at Five Star Sensation

A throwback to 2017 – I will be joining the event once again on June 15, 2019. The landmark culinary event - The Five Star Sensation, has raised nearly $20 million to support patient care, research and supportive programs and services at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center. For more details visit University Hospitals Five Star Sensation.

–Photos and story by Lisa Sands

–Photos and story by Lisa Sands


We couldn’t resist a chance to share the generosity and genius of our Cleveland chef community on display last night at University Hospitals Five Star Sensation. The epic food-focused fundraiser has been going on since 1987. Wolfgang Puck served as Host Chef for 25 years, handing over the reigns to native son “Iron Chef” Michael Symon prior to the 2015 event. (He’s pictured here with his very proud mom.)

Since its inception, the biennial event has raised more than $18 million for Seidman Cancer Center. This year’s Five Star Sensation gala gathered more than 80 chefs and vintners from around the country for an evening unsurpassed in culinary variety.


Chefs from as far away as Seattle and Hawaii joined Symon for a culinary collaboration like none other. Under a massive tent on the Tri-C East campus, guests grazed on food from notable chefs including Marc Forgione of American Cut (New York), Hubert Keller of Fleur (Las Vegas) and Perry Hendrix of Avec (Chicago).

The event was a chance for local chefs to shine was well.  More than 2,000 people who attended the event saw a special kind of “Cleveland hustle.” We are never surprised to see the outpouring of generosity of our chef community at food-centric fundraising events. Working alongside the chefs were numerous restaurant staff and volunteers serving tasty bites at a rapid-fire pace and also plating it beautifully. It was nice to see the Tri-C Hospitality team participate, as their accessible and affordable programs are integral to the future of Cleveland’s culinary dominance.


Dishes from some of the local chefs included beef jerky bucatini carbonara with a minted pea tartare from The Greenhouse Tavern, coffee and ancho rubbed brisket from Momocho, pink peppercorn biscuits with goat cheese and strawberry jam from Fire, a yuzu curd and cucumber bloom from The Chef’s Garden/Culinary Vegetable Institute, and an array of BBQ favorites from Mabel’s BBQ.

Dishes from visiting chefs included a Hawaiian poke dish from Sam Choy’s Poke to the Max, roasted beets with whipped feta and rose harissa by Avec, and grilled octopus over hearts of palm with tomatoes and microgreens from Fleur.


More than a dozen decadent and playful desserts from renowned pastry chefs capped off the night.  Spencer Budros of Pistacia Vera in Columbus plated a stunning dark chocolate cake and mint green macaron, and Natasha MacAller’s lime and strawberry tart was delicious alongside an “Eros God of Love” cocktail crafted by Anna Harouvis.

We want to be sure we recognize the talent and generosity of all of the participating Cleveland chefs: Summer Genetti and Derek Clayton (Michael Symon Restaurants), Douglas Katz (Fire), Karen Small (Flying Fig), Jonathan Sawyer (The Greenhouse Tavern), Matt Mytro and Paul Minnillo (Flour), Vishwatej Nath (Urban Farmer), Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit), Eric Williams (Momocho), Anna Harouvis (Anna in the Raw), Thomas Capretta and Michelle Gaw (Tri-C Culinary Institute), Britt-Marie Culey (Coquette Patisserie), Jamie Simpson (Culinary Vegetable Institute), Steve Alexander and Adam Lizak (Cleveland Browns), Anthony Verona and John Selick (Sodexo).

Mitchell’s Ice CreamThe Cheese Shop at the West Side Market and Certified Angus Beef also contributed items to the affair. It was great to see Rust Belt Riders was on hand to compost food waste, and the event organizers did their best to minimize waste, using glassware and metal utensils instead of plastic. Stone Soup made sure any uneaten food was distributed to people in the community who are in need of it.


The grand scale of this event is possible in a city with a food and chef community as generous and openly collaborative as we have here in Cleveland. Make your plans to attend University Hospitals Five Star Sensation in 2019!

NZ House & Garden Magazine

Manja Wachsmuth and I have been pondering ideas to work on a project together since Spice Health Heroes, so Manja offered ideas to food editor Sally Butters who enthusiastically gave the thumbs up for a feature food story in the July issue of NZ House & Garden Magazine's "Special Eco" Issue  - "Feed the Soul".  

This was a wonderful collaboration with Manja and Lianne Whorwood. Thank you Sally for the opportunity! 

Recipes Natasha MacAller
Photography by Manja Wachsmuth
Food Styling Natasha MacAller and Manja Wachsmuth
Styling Lianne Whorwood

Prepping for the photo shoot.

Prepping for the photo shoot.

Chicken, Kumara, Corn & Cauli Bake ready to be photographed.

Chicken, Kumara, Corn & Cauli Bake ready to be photographed.




Valentine's Day

Why not celebrate Valentine's early and go this weekend Feb 9, 10 or 11 with a classic movie and a meal? Come visit Old Town Music Hall in classic El Segundo for a special screening of Casablanca - then stroll hand in hand 2 blocks to Sausal and enjoy "nuevo rancho cuisine' and save room for a divine dessert. There will also be a special menu for Valentine's Day.

Read more details about Date Night in El Segundo: The Argonaut

Sausal’s Angry Mussels are steeped in a chili cream broth

Sausal’s Angry Mussels are steeped in a chili cream broth

Sausal’s taco platter offers an unexpected variety of flavors

Sausal’s taco platter offers an unexpected variety of flavors

Happy 2018!

Have a peek at my cooking collaboration and interview with Dr Allen Arnette plus a few recipes (download) from Spice Health Heroes available for free to inspire to add a little spice to your life! With help from 21 international contributing chefs and 8 medical doctors, learn a little more about how these 30 spice heroes not only make food taste better but can help our bodies and brains rebalance! Just released in Germany, Italy and now Spain and Peru, now available in 9 countries!

You can pick up a special priced signed copy of Spice Health Heroes at Parkview Health and Wellness Center … and I will personalize it for you!

If you choose to order on, would really appreciate a review!

Thank you!
Warm wishes and Happy New Year! 
with love and laughter,
Natasha X

25 Years Ago Backstage at the Ahmanson

April 29, 1992, hours after the Rodney King acquittal verdict was read out, the cast and crew readied ourselves for our 8 p.m. performance of Phantom of the Opera at the Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre in downtown LA.

Quick Hannibal pose in the “Wigwam” with   Christopher Aponte  , former ABT dancer.

Quick Hannibal pose in the “Wigwam” with Christopher Aponte, former ABT dancer.

Curtain up, the chandelier rose and the sold out performance went as planned through the spectacular opening number of Act II: “Masquerade”, just after 9 p.m. After the full cast costume change, one of the singers and a few dressers went outside for some fresh air and could smell smoke-a lot of smoke wafting from a bit further east: we were soon to learn that The Parker Center Police Headquarters, a few blocks away, was ablaze as rioters attacked and firebombed it and other buildings in downtown Los Angeles.

This of course was 1992, before mobile phone access to instant news, so the audience had no idea what was developing-but we certainly did. Backstage became a hub of controlled nerves as the stage managers desperately tried to get any vital updates while we continued our show.

Sliding on the pointe shoes in the quick change corner backstage right for warm up.

Sliding on the pointe shoes in the quick change corner backstage right for warm up.

By 10:37 p.m. at curtain call, from what I can remember, stage manager Barbara Mae Phillips came onstage and spoke to the audience in a calm voice explaining that while they were enjoying the performance, that due to the escalating violence in Los Angeles, the governor had declared a state of emergency and most of the freeway ramps were closed, including the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) and Harbor Freeway (Interstate 110). The only safe and remaining freeway out of downtown was the Ventura Freeway north (US Route 101). She insisted, “lock your car doors, don’t stop for anyone and get home safe”.

Cast, crew and audience escaped downtown and the theatre was dark for several days.  When the curfew lifted and we slowly returned to a sense of normalcy, we were reminded of what had just happened to our City of Angels as teams of National Guard units patrolled backstage halls and front of house of our theatre home; The Ahmanson.

Under the exit sign backstage after the show with National Guards-on our return to the theatre.

Under the exit sign backstage after the show with National Guards-on our return to the theatre.

Seven Spices for Health

Join in a workshop Dr. Eleni Tsiompanou, one of the eight medical doctors featured and wrote the foreword in my new cookbook Spice Health Heroes, is offering on November 12th. Learn how to use spices in your everyday life to make so-so dishes sing with flavor while supporting your health and wellbeing.

To get all the details on this event go to Health Being.

Vanilla Table Cookbook Signing & Demonstration

Join Surfas in welcoming Chef Natasha MacAller to our Test Kitchen.  Chef Natasha’s book, Vanilla Table, will convince chefs and cooks alike that vanilla is anything but plain. With over 100 dishes including starters, mains, brunch, desserts and more, you will never think of vanilla the same way again! Chef Natasha’s book also includes collaborations with several international chefs (including Jonathan Waxman, Jim Dodge, Alan Wong, Duff Goldman, Yotam Ottolenghi, Sherry Yard, Nancy Silverton, and Gina DePalma).  


Vanilla Table Cookbook Signing and Demonstration with Chef Natasha MacAller
Test Kitchen, Surfas Culinary District Culver City

1 - 3 p.m.
Free Demonstration and Book Signing

You will not want to miss Chef Natasha demonstrating: 

Chicken Stroganoff with Chantrelles and Vanilla
Smoked Trout Johnnycake Stacks
Banana Polenta Upside Down Cake

Vanilla Table is a complete course in how to use the world’s most delicious and adaptable spice – from savory appetizers and delicious entrees to indulgent desserts and decadent drinks. 

Recipes and samples will be provided. Reservations will not be taken for this event so please arrive early as seating is limited. Book signing will commence after the demonstration.


Savour by Peter Gordon

Available to purchase on  Amazon

Available to purchase on Amazon

Arriving after production meeting at @quartouk with #jacquismall and the team for my new book, the group of us taxied it over to The Providores and Tapas Bar soon joined by friends family and fans of Peter Gordon and the beautiful, creative and flavourful tastes from his book Savour #PGsavour published by Jacqui Small. Great catch ups with friends and owners #Peter G,#Michael McGrath and #Peter B and the lovely wait staff and Providores outstanding kitchen crew, helmed by @Pauljmelville. @RachelCooper kept Peter gliding through the crowds while I met the gracious and talented Chef Cyrus Todiwala of Namaste his award winning restaurant in Hackney, and #Kyleenewton owner creator of @newtonandpott @broadwaymarket that makes the most beautiful jams, chutneys and fermented veg as well as a few cocktails! Another Kiwi does good in London! Cheers! A very lovely and gracious #nigellalawson @nigellalawson in attendance said her hellos to all around. A wonderful welcome back to London!


Dishing on 1,000 Cookbooks

    Time for afternoon tea, settle in enjoy a lovely cuppa and come peruse some of my favorite cookbooks!
     1,000 COOKBOOKS, a new website founded by Matthew Cockerill and Jon Croft has launched and I am happy to say I was invited to contribute and thrilled to participate. Never realized how challenging having to choose JUST ten cookbooks could be! 
    Matthew and Jon are building a list of the top 1,000 cookbooks and have asked a selected panel of leading chefs for their picks. Their aim is to create a collection of the very best food and recipe content to meet the needs of anyone from the most avant-garde foodie to the novice beginner in the kitchen. See my dedicated page and picks here.  What fun! Enjoy! 

Whirlwind Wonderful Chicago Stop on the Vanilla Table Tour

Quick stop at Floriole Café and Bakery

Flanked by my great friend and pastry colleague Malika Ameen– my official morning tour guide we sampled delicious treats both sweet and savoury created by owner Sandra Holl!

Prepping pavlovas, sauces, creams and caramelized garlic in the kitchens of Mindy Segal’s Hot Chocolate, surrounded by a gracious, crazy fun kitchen crew they made room for me to work amongst the doughs, desserts and pounds of freshly roasted and ground cocoa beans. Thank you!

Off to WGN-TV for a quick cooking demo, lovely host Dina enjoyed the scent of Chicken Stroganoff with Mushrooms and Vanilla wafting across the studio as she read the day’s news.

After cleaning up, I got a personal tour of the TV studio b Rick Nosek of the original Bozo's Circus Show that aired on WGN-TV for many decades. I learned there was a 15 month waiting list to attend a live taping of the beloved show seen by millions of children before it went off the air.

Returning borrowed dishes, plates and props from the multi-level kitchens of Park Hyatt Chicago generously loaned by Chef Daniel Hoefler, sous Chef Patrick Lebeau and coordinated by concierge Andrea Leavitt – I repacked, refreshed then on to Read It and Eat. Anticipating a good turnout (sorry, bit of ballet humor!) we got set up with help from Jason, Esther and Joey. With scent of garlic, vanilla and ricotta custard cups and sips of Proseco, we finished with The Anna Pavlova drizzled with pickled rose petal and raspberry sauce, layered with cream. The gorgeous scent of all things vanilla wafted though the stacks of books of beautiful bookshop and sparkling kitchen. Looking forward to returning next year and create a pop up vanilla feast @Read it and Eat!

LA Eater - Where should I eat right now?

Sausal is one of the 31 Hottest Restaurants in LA Right Now, November 2015

More often than not, tipsters, readers, friends, and family of Eater have one question: Where should I eat right now? Restaurant obsessives want to know what's new, what's hot, which favorite chef just launched a sophomore effort. And while the Eater 38 is a crucial resource covering old standbys and neighborhood essentials across the city, it is not a chronicle of the 'it' places of the moment.

Thus, we offer the Eater LA Heatmap, which will change continually to always highlight where the crowds are flocking to at the moment. Sausal is included in this months installment at number 28. (article by Matthew Kang)

Sausal Continues to Flourish

Latest Best of LA – CBS Local
October 2015

The South Bay has been getting a taste of “Nuevo Rancho,” as chef and partner Anne Conness recently introduced Sausal to Downtown El Segundo. A perfect marriage of comfort food and bold traditional Mexican fare, Sausal embraces the unique makeup of Southern California. Named after the farmstead that once encompassed the area, the food draws heavily on smoke, slow roasting, and wood-fire techniques used by the rancheros who used to inhabit it. Scratch cocktails highlighting market-driven ingredients, prepared with housemade syrups and infusions, pair perfectly with Beef & Goat Birria, Pork Pozole over Hominy Grits, or one of many other menu items. To top off dinner with a sweet treat, diners can enjoy a Spanish Sticky Date Cake or Rancho Grilled Stone Fruit, Figs, and Grapes with bay leaf sabayon and “piggy” cookies. Starting today Sausal will be introducing lunch hours and a new lunch menu.

Stone Fruit at  Sausal      Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

Stone Fruit at Sausal     Photo by: Ryan Tanaka

By Lesley Balla
September 2015

Where there's smoke, there's probably a wood-fired grill in one of the top local restaurants. First everyone wanted a wood-burning oven for pizzas and other specialties, and now more and more chefs are stoking the flame of an open hearth in their kitchens. When done properly, cooking over direct fire brings out the best flavor in everything from vegetables to shellfish, seafood, huge chops and more.

Even desserts get a little smoke and fire at Anne Conness' new El Segundo grillhouse. Here peaches and apples are grilled until just a little charred and super sweet, and served with bay leaf sabayon and piggy cookies.

Have a listen …

… a couple of interviews coming your way.

1490 WKNY The Kingston Station – 
Mornings with Warren Lawrence
THURSDAY, AUGUST 27, 2015 at 6:45 a.m. (PT)

Warren Lawrence will interview Chef Natasha MacAller live on air– Tune in for the live stream at 1490WKNY

Talk Radio 790 KABC
Food and Wine with Chef Jamie Gwen

Chef Jamie Gwen interviews Natasha MacAller – Tune in at 790 KABC or have a listen on your radio. Please Note: The show may experience last minute schedule shifts, check Jamie’s site for confirmation.