Masters of Taste 2023 was fantastic. The annual event has always been one of my favorite food festivals. I have attended every year since its inception. One hundred percent of the proceeds goes to a great cause – Union Station Homeless Services which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (2023).

2023 Masters of Taste

Ayara Thai, Khao Gee + Koi Salmon bites; all photos below are by Kathy Leonardo

My husband and I were excited as we entered the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena California, where the event is held. Two of our favorite restaurants flanked the entrance to the field. Ayara Thai offered Khao Gee + Koi Salmon bites (Charcoal grilled sticky rice topped with raw salmon seasoned with fish sauce, lime, roasted chili, toasted rice and herbs) Black caviar was added on top which took it to the next level. I love this restaurant – Read my review HERE. 

Just across the field I found my husband with a massive breast of fried chicken from Gus’s Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken (see cover shot). He was in heaven! I also had the chance to review this well-known eatery as well. CLICK HERE to read that review.

Winemaker Claudia Horta and Sommelier Maygua Dahler


I like to try all the smaller gourmet bites, and I don’t get far without my first glass of red wine. Right next to Ayara Thai, I met winemaker Claudia Horta and sommelier Maygua Dahler from Casta de Vinos. My first taste was a 2017 Casta de Vinos Natura Syrah. It was delicious with notes of blackberry and cinnamon.

What I love most about Masters of Taste is the variety of the cuisine offered at the festival. Any type of food you could possibly want is available. You have to pick and choose, because you will never be able to eat it all. Plus there is always an abundance of alcoholic beverages as well as deserts.

Culinary Power Couple Chef Michael Reed and Kwini Reed

2023 Masters of Taste Culinary Hosts

This year, Chef Michael Reed and Kwini Reed were selected as hosts of Masters of Taste 2023. Michael has an illustrious career, with over nineteen years experience at high-end restaurants from NY to LA. Today, Chef Reed is the co-owner and Executive Chef behind two restaurants, Poppy + Rose in Downtown Los Angeles and Anaheim’s Poppy & Seed. In addition to their two restaurants, Chef Reed and his wife Kwini also run an upscale catering company, Root of All Food.

It was so nice to meet the couple. They served two dishes, Pulled Pork Hash (Pulled pork on brick hash with quail egg, arugula, and creme fraiche), which was my personal favorite, and a Negro Cavatelli (Duck confit, swiss chard, mole, parmigiano reggiano, and cocoa nibs-chili crumble). My husband loved the latter. 

2023 Masters of Taste

Chef Isaias Peña from Hank’s

Hank‘s Chef Isaias Peña tempted us with an outstanding slider. This was like no other slider, I have tasted. The custom patty was made of short rib, wagyu & brisket…so good.

Chefs Marcos Spaziani & Louis Huh of Marlou offered a spectacular dish – Arepitas Borracha. My taste buds were in heaven due to this four hour slow braised brisket, sweet & spicy, gochujang aioli, radish, topped with micro cilantro.

Chef Atsushi Kenio from La Boheme presented a Salmon Crudo (aji amarillo ponzu, onion, cucumber, and cilantro) which was also quite tasty and popular. Also, Yuca’s Chef Socorro Herrera served up Cochinita Pibil Tacos (Achiote-seasoned pork, slow roasted in a bed of banana leaves). This is the restaurant’s signature dish, and I can see why – delish! Other highlights came from Lunasia Dim Sum, (unbelievably tasty dumplings), Santuari Restaurant, City Club Los Angeles, Pez Cantina, Bertha Mae’s Brownie Co., Porto’s Bakery, etc.

2023 Masters of Taste

A5 Wagyu Brisket from Alexander’s Steakhouse

The Food Just Keeps on Comin’ at the 2023 Masters of Taste

One of my favorite dishes was provided by Alexander’s Steakhouse. Chef Richard Archuleta presented A5 Wagyu Brisket (A5 wagyu brisket, skewered and served with a side of Nishiki Rice with Parmesan, and Spring Peas). The brisket was so tender and the rice was chewy and flavorful. 

Chef Scott Floyd (Great Maple) out did himself with his Soda Pop Ribs and White Cheddar Biscuit (Slow-braised and grilled baby back ribs with house made cheddar and black pepper biscuit). This was fantastic. The meat just fell off the bone, and the biscuit had a beautiful crust with a super moist inside.

2023 Masters of Taste

The team from Great Maple

I spotted Sake High! a relatively new Sake company (2022). My husband and I often host our own sushi dinners at my home (Rich is a fisherman) and guests bring sake. One of our guests brought Sake High! and I just loved it. The owner Brenna Turner was so engaging. The company was created by Brenna and Joey Labes. Yes, they are a couple and were inspired to create the company when they were in Japan enjoying Sake. 

2023 Masters of Taste

Sake High! owners Brenna Turner and Joey Labes

Best Day Ever

Finally, it was a beautiful day, and the food was amazing. We met lots of nice people, found out about new restaurants and saw familiar faces. Plus all of the vendors were so sweet – adding to the overall jovial spirit of the event. Attending Masters of Taste is a great way to sample some of LA’s best culinary creations.

So if you love food and want to support a great cause, be sure to book your tickets early next year. The annual event…Masters of Taste is one of the best food festivals in Los Angeles! https://mastersoftastela.com/

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