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Madeline Meets the President at the White House

Day 13

Scottsdale, AZ – Anaheim, CA

Distance: 366.01 Miles

“Wow! This had to be one of our most favorite and inspiring interviews yet!” Thank you Chef Bruno, for sharing your time, your passions, your beliefs and your amazing children with us.

Chef Bruno

Chef Bruno Serato is the owner of the Anaheim White House and he was Madeline’s CNN hero of 2011. Chef doesn’t just talk about feeding the children in America, he’s actually doing it. Chef Bruno is also the founder of Caterina’s Club and he feeds 300 “motel children” seven nights a week at the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim. To learn more about Caterina’s Club, check out http://www.thecaterinasclub.org

Our Plan in Action

After learning about Chef Bruno on CNN Student News last year, we respectfully requested an interview with the Chef through his assistant Megan. Our goal was to meet interesting and inspiring people during our cross-country adventure and see what they all have in common. Also, Madeline secretly wanted to help feed the children but we suspected we would not have that opportunity.

Pre Interview

Thursday afternoon, Madeline went back and forth emailing with Megan confirming our appointment and the restaurant dress code. On Friday morning when we crossed the Eastern California border from New Mexico; here is how Megan responded to Madeline: “WooHoo! Welcome to California! We are SO excited to have you :)” We truly felt wanted and welcome.

The Interview

At 4pm when we arrived at the impressive yet inviting Anaheim White House and it was closed; there were workmen drilling and diligently working away in the opulent dining room. At first Madeline did not recognize him when Chef Bruno came down the staircase. As he directed us to a table in one of the dining rooms, he asked what she would like to talk about. We were prepared for a 30 minute interview and thirty minutes turned into, (photographs, dream come true–feeding the kids, dinner, a face book opportunity and meeting the President) a 4-hour evening of a lifetime.

Madeline was amazing and I have never been more proud of her and how she conducted herself during the interview; asking her questions, listening and responding to Chefs replies. Throughout the interview Chef answered each and every one of Madeline’s questions, dropping many pearls of wisdom as he did so, and he spoke in a way that allowed us to really identify with him. He is so inspiring.

Madeline and Chef Bruno bonded over the death of a loved one and Madeline shared comments from a current favorite book she is reading. He shared his story of how he came to American with just $200 in his pocket. We discussed how impressed Madeline is with the John Lassiter story as early on he was terminated from Disney (after wanting to work there his entire childhood) and by never giving up on himself went on to create Pixar.

We asked Chef if we could purchase two of his books, one for Madeline and one as a thank you for our friend Terri but Chef wouldn’t hear of it; he insisted they would be our gifts from him. While we were touring the restaurant we noticed that all of the chandeliers in the banquet room were exactly the same as the chandelier in the Princess room in Terri’s home. Chef said “Terri has good taste.” Funny, Terri said the same about Chef.

During our interview Chef mentioned that the next evening he was hosting his biggest fundraiser of the year where he was going to donate $100k to the Boys and Girls Club of Anaheim– and here he was spending his time with us? I believe this interview is going to be one of those memorable moments in Madeline’s childhood that helps shape her future

You will have to wait until our trip is over and we compile all of our notes for our final “report” to learn all that was shared.

Invitation to Help Feed the Children

We were about to wrap up the interview when Chef invited Madeline into the kitchen to take some photos and then with sparkling eyes he invited Madeline to join him as he went over to feed the kids. Madeline was over the moon (I thought Madeline was going to fall off of the chair).

Chef in OUR Car!

Chef actually drove with us (a good thing we’d just washed the car that afternoon because after 2-weeks of practically living in the car, well, yuck; you get the picture…stinky) As we were driving over to the club, Chef asked me if we were going to Disneyland while we were in Anaheim and I replied, “No, we drove 3-thousand miles to meet you!” and he just shook his head and smiled. He also mentioned that he would have to leave us when we got back to the restaurant because he was having dinner with someone very important.

Feeding the Kids

At first Madeline admitted to feeling a little shy with the children. As the children spotted him, they jumped for joy (just like Madeline saw in the CNN video) and thanked him for bringing them dinner. He placed his hands on Madeline’s shoulders and introduced her as his “friend” and she helped serve the children. Many of the children were excited to take photos with Madeline.

As we were leaving to get back to the restaurant (Friday night dinner crowd and all…) Chef noticed a little girl behind the building was crying; immediately he stopped to understand why she was crying; her food had spilled and she was hungry; he went back to the kitchen to get her another plate and make her smile!

During that time, two boys invited Madeline to play billiards (Madeline was thrilled) and Chef again waited until Madeline was through “having fun.” before we left.

Be My Guest

As we were driving back to the White House, Chef invited us to be his guests for dinner. When we arrived he gave our car keys to the Valet and asked him to “Take good care of our car.” Madeline was oh so impressed.

We were treated like royalty; all of the staff came over to our table and couldn’t have given us more attention through out our dinner. As the restaurant filled, we enjoyed our 5-star fare –only the most magnificent meal ever (good thing we practiced our proper dining etiquette while staying with Terri – hee hee). One of the questions Madeline has asked the Chef when he invited us to dinner was “What is your favorite meal?’ and he replied “Spaghetti with oil and garlic (Aglio Et Olio), because when he was growing up as a poor child that was all they could afford.” And even though it was not on the dinner menu, Madeline asked if she could have the Chefs favorite! And she did. Dessert was indescribable!

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Madeline was so moved when Chef Bruno came over during dinner and asked me to “Please use my phone to take picture of Madeline and me.” Right then and there, he posted it to his Facebook account. Madeline almost cried when she read what he wrote about her.

President Disney,

During our entré our waiter told us that Chef wanted us to meet the President of Disneyland in a private room. So after dessert the waiter brought us to the room and, as we entered, everyone stood up to greet us. Chef invited Madeline to ask the President of Disneyland one question and Madeline asked: “What is it like to be President of Disney?” He replied “It is AWESOME!” Madeline replied, “That’s my kind of answer.” Her second question was: “No offence but, do you know John Lasseter?” I always tell her “I like how you think!”

Madeline felt very privileged to be in his presence and able to get his business card (with a picture of Mickey Mouse on the backside), a photo and the memory of meeting the President of Disneyland.

I should add that Disneyland’s president, George Kalogridis, makes sure that Anaheim’s kids are well taken care of also.

What an evening! Our time with Chef Bruno was truly an opportunity of a lifetime! The most remarkable thing about him is his personality and the way he treats people. Our lives have changed having been able to spend time with him.

After we left; as we often do when we encounter something awesome and we just can’t contain ourselves, we rolled up the car windows and screamed with joy after we pulled out of the parking lot. I took many photos of Madeline and the Chef together and hope to get them up online next week.

Ciao and happy travels from Linda and Madeline

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