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About the Shot: That Leon Panetta Smile

Updated: 6 days ago

On Sunday, October 16, 2022, the American Culinary Federation hosted the President’s Gala and honored their new Chef of the Year, Bert Cutino. Cutino is widely considered the Godfather of Central Coast chefs and one of the founders of the legendary Sardine Factory in Monterey, CA. The event took place at the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa and was filled with numerous chefs, sponsors, and local and national dignitaries. I was lucky enough to land a seat at the past president's table. With my luck, one of my favorite politicians of all time was also seated with us. None other than Leon Panetta. He has served 5 administrations in multiple capacities including Secretary of Defense, CIA Director, and White House Chief of Staff. I am well aware of that famous Leno smile. I have been lucky enough to capture events for his son, Senator Jimmy Panetta, and Rep. Sam Farr. As Bert Cutino took the stage to accept the Chef of the Year award he shared many funny and engaging memories of growing up with Panetta and did not disappoint the crowd. Multiple moments came up that brought out different emotions in Panetta and I was more ready to capture these special moments. To make this photo I used my Fujifilm GFX 100s with the GF 110mm f2.0 prime.

That world-famous Leon Panetta smile was brought out by Chef Bert Cutino during his acceptance speech.
Bert Cutino makes Leon Panetta Smile

The night was filled with food, drink, and celebration for the dedicated efforts of all the hardworking chefs in the region. I had the pleasure of capturing the essence of the night and being surrounded by conversation while doing so. With any event, I always ensure that I am constantly looking for great photo opportunities. Every direction you turned at the event was another group of attendees enjoying conversation and laughing. Musicians and singers also invoked a lively reaction from the crowd as they performed throughout the night.


Chef Bert Cutino accpeting his ACF Chef of the Year award.
Chef Bert Cutino

Sponsors were able to relax and enjoy the night starting with a Color Guard from our armed forces. It is always an excellent opportunity to capture the entrance with the numerous flags being carried in. The singing of the national anthem was performed with such passion that it was such a great moment to capture on camera. I also had the privilege of donating one of my photography pieces for the auction held that night. The director of this wonderful event, Claudia Quirarte, was kind enough to pose while displaying my piece. A scenic sunset above the majestic cliffs of Point Lobos was a perfect item to donate and help us all cherish the beautiful coast we live on.

Claudia Quirarte holding a Manny Espinoza metal print dnation.
Event Director Claudia Quirarte

As with any event that I attend, I am always honored and thankful for being able to share my craft with others. The chefs, sponsors and dignitaries in attendance of this event, and all those whom made it possible created an absolutely memorable atmosphere.



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