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Celebrity chef Jet Tila joins MaxLove Project’s new fundraising event

There is one appetizer that is hard for celebrity chef Jet Tila to resist.

“I think an appetizer’s job is not to fill you up but to start your journey on your meal, so a crudo or a sashimi — it’s going to be pretty hard for me not to order that, to be honest with you,” said Tila.

It’s something the teams might want to keep in mind at MaxLove Project’s first App-Off Finale, where Tila and his wife, Ali, will be judges. The event is the organization’s newest Fork Childhood Cancer Challenge and brings a new format to the annual Farm to Fork Dinner.

Chef Jet Tila and his wife, Ali, will be judges at MaxLove Project’s App-Off Finale on Sept. 16.

Chef Jet Tila and his wife, Ali, will be judges at MaxLove Project’s App-Off Finale on Sept. 16.

(Courtesy of Kitchen Table PR)

The App-Off features four donor teams paired with the nonprofit’s Gold Apron Society chefs who worked together for months of team fundraising. Teams must raise a minimum of $25,000, with fundraising opportunities continuing at the finale event on Sept. 16 at Tanaka Farms in Irvine from 4:30 to 9 p.m.

“The App-Off is going to be four celebrity chefs being paired with families who have benefited and who have worked with the MaxLove Proejct,” said Tila.

MaxLove Project supporters are able to purchase tickets to the App-Off Finale and get a chance to taste all of the appetizers created by the four donor-chef teams, served with a special wine or beverage pairing. Team Green is led by chef Cathy McKnight, while Team Love is led by Sophy Singer, Team Hope by the Klein, Balhki and Song families and Team Ohana by the DeArmey and Adzich families. Each team will have a booth at the event to show off their appetizers and share their own personal journeys with MaxLove Project.

“It is going to be a really fun appetizer and cocktail party, all going to a really great cause,” Tila said.

The guests will also have an opportunity to vote for their favorite appetizer before the judges announce the winners at the award ceremony.

Found in 2001, MaxLove Project is a nonprofit dedicated to increasing quality of life for families surviving childhood cancer.

“With 40,000 kids undergoing cancer treatment each year and roughly half a million survivors of childhood cancer, there is an urgent need to increase the quality of life and reduce health risks for this community,” said Audra D. Wilford, a co-founder of MaxLove Project.

MaxLove Project was inspired by Wilford’s son, Max, who was just 4 years old when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Wilford used her culinary arts background to turn food into medicine.

Donors and their chef partners will create unique appetizers for the App-Off Finale.

Ceviche served with taro chips at last year’s Farm to Form Dinner. This year, donors and their chef partners will create unique appetizers for the App-Off Finale on Sept. 16.

(Jessica Bodas Photography)

Tila became involved with the MaxLove Project back when his friend and HGTV host Mike Pyle introduced him to the nonprofit.

Pyle will serve as a judge for the App-Off event, along with New York Times best-selling author Tembi Locke and local celebrity chef Zov Karamardian.

Tila is one of the many chefs who contributed to the MaxLove Project cookbook, “The Fierce Foods Kitchen,” which contains recipes that cultivate healing through culinary medicine. The book also contains one of Tila’s other favorite appetizers.

“I think everyone loves pizza, and there are mushroom cap pizza in the book, which are phenomenal,” said Tila. “You take your portobellos and you scoop out the gills, add olive oil, salt and pepper and put them in the oven until they are nice and soft. Then you top them with marinara, cheese and whatever you want.”

Tila said contributing to charities like MaxLove Project is important to him and his wife.

“This is something near and dear to our hearts. We have two children, and we fortunately have never had the need, but we want to be there for families who are going through this pretty terrible ordeal of childhood cancer.”

MaxLove Project’s App-Off Finale takes place on Saturday, Sept.16, at Tanaka Farms in Irvine. General admission tickets are priced at $175 and limited VIP passes are priced at $450. Tickets are available at

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