Annual Gala Raises More Than $436,000 to Support the College's 1,300 Students

Tomasina and her band during the After Party

More than 500 industry professionals and supporters of The Collins College traveled back in time to 1940s Paris in honor of Tom Simms, founder of Mimi’s Café and recipient of the 2015 Robert Mondavi Wine & Food Award at Hospitality Uncorked.

The college’s Board of Advisors transformed the JW Marriott LA Live’s Diamond Ballroom into the streets of France to tell the romantic story of how Mimi’s café came to be. Guests enjoyed French cuisine, tempting libations, vintner tastings, a gourmet dinner, exclusive live and silent auctions and a Moulin Rouge after party that lasted all night.

The March 28 event celebrated the vibrant social and cultural life that has made hospitality the No. 1 industry in Southern California. The college raised more than $435,000 and gained a new addition to its esteemed family of Mondavi honorees.

The Mondavi Wine & Food Award is steeped in tradition at The Collins College and is the focal point of the evening. It is given with great appreciation to individuals whose vision and leadership have advanced the wine and food industry. The honor was first bestowed upon Margrit and Robert Mondavi in 1999. Simms is now a member of the prestigious family of honorees that include Julia Child, Alice Waters, Jim Collins, and the 2014 awardee Alan Fuerstman.

Simms and his partners created Mimi’s café, a French-New Orleans casual dining concept in 1978. They opened their original restaurant in Anaheim, Calif., and over the next two decades developed and operated over one hundred Mimi’s across the country. Tom sold Mimi’s in 2004 and resigned from his position as CEO to pursue other interests including the growth of Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar with his son, Chris, as well as the development of South Bay favorites, Simmzy’s, Tin Roof Bistro, MB Post and Fishing with Dynamite with his son, Mike, and partner, David LeFevre.

Before the night was over, the traditional 21-cork salute was held on stage with the Board of Advisors and honoree. As soon as the corks went flying, Disney’s Tomasina took over the stage with a can-can dance number and Moulin Rouge after party that was one for the books.

Hospitality Uncorked is a Collins College Board of Advisors event with assistance from event manager Joan Wrede, auction coordinator Ann Marie Coronell, college staff and faculty, and more than 60 student volunteers. The planning committee, consisted of Collins College Board of Advisors members Bridget Bilinski, Russ Bendel, Michele Gendreau, Daniel Harley, Javier Cano, Bruce Baltin, and Bruce Gorelick.

Take a look at photos of the evening by clicking here.