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May 14, 2015

Scene and Heard: Leslie Durso

“It’s so important that the food practically sings as it’s eaten,” says Los Angeles-based chef Leslie Durso, describing the vegan, gluten-free menu she designed for the Humane Society of the United States’ annual Los Angeles gala on Saturday, May 16. The event, benefiting the organization’s lifesaving Farm Animal Protection and Pets for Life programs, takes place at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, where Cloris Leachman, Paul Wesley, and Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting will celebrate recent animal rights victories and honor Ed Asner, among others, for his commitment to animal welfare. Durso, a Southern California native and former actress (she played Leslie the Lab Girl on Bill Nye the Science Guy) says she wanted to create a healthy, plant-based three-course menu that would appeal to the taste buds of meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Durso does this by using the freshest produce in unexpected ways. Her compressed watermelon and watercress spring roll appetizers are a prime example. “At first glance, the watermelon looks like tuna, but when you taste the flavor combinations, they create a beautiful dance in your mouth,” she says.

With a team in place to whip up her menu, Durso will wear a vintage Vera Wang gown with a 1930s feel to the party. “I love giving vintage pieces new life,” she says. “You always look unique and it’s environmentally friendly.” The actress-turned-chef has been actively involved in the Humane Society’s campaigns for five years and hopes to spread her meatless mindset while also inspiring and educating guests about how to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Durso says a holistic approach is key. She even has a rescue pup of her own named Pepe. “He’s my best friend,” she says.

By Jessica Estrada

Pictured: Leslie Durso
Photo by: Laura Grier Beautiful Day Photog

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