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‘Chef Darren’ to Debut: Local Filmmaker Premieres New Work

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by Josh Code / Palo Alto Weekly

Medical professionals told Bernie and Linda Weiss “not to expect much” of their profoundly deaf son, Darren. He would probably never speak, they said.

“Chef Darren: The Challenge of Profound Deafness,” is Menlo Park filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman’s latest work, a documentary on Darren’s journey from a childhood isolated by deafness to the opening of his own award-winning restaurant in Southern California. The film will premiere June 3 in Palo Alto.

“Many of my films are inspired by challenges others face that would have stopped me,” Fadiman said. “It (the film) is a microcosm of what I think is important in life, which is to get through places that appear impassable and impossible.”

With “Chef Darren,” Fadiman tells the story of Darren and his parents facing the challenges of deafness together as a family.

“Every waking moment was a language lesson (for Darren),” Bernie said. “Everything had to be taught.”

Bernie and Linda trained Darren to communicate using a strict auditory method. Their goal was twofold: to have Darren be not only able to understand his parents, but also capable of producing intelligible speech on his own. They did not let him use sign language in hopes that he would focus on producing speech orally. Fearing backlash from other deaf individuals, the Weiss family was initially very private about the specifics of their story.

“That was our cross to bear,” Bernie said.

While making “Chef Darren,” Fadiman found the topic of parenting a deaf child to be extremely sensitive.

“I had to be careful because the deaf community has very special and particular ideas about the way you should approach communication,” Fadiman said. “Bernie and Linda chose a path for how their profoundly deaf child would learn to communicate. One of the hardest things for me was making sure that other approaches (to parenting deaf children) didn’t sound wrong.”

Bernie and Linda struggled to share Darren’s story when he was young for this very reason.

“We avoided the deaf community,” Bernie said. “We didn’t want Darren to grow up thinking of his deafness.”

According to Bernie, Darren’s speech was “well-settled” by late adolescence, and it wasn’t until then that Darren began to interface with other deaf people. By the time he graduated high school, Darren had taught himself sign language and befriended other deaf people in his community.

Drawn to and talented at cooking from a young age, Darren is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York. His restaurant, located in Manhattan Beach, is known for “locally sourced ingredients and the rich flavors of the Pacific Rim,” according to the restaurant’s website.

For Fadiman, watching Darren and his wife, Sawalin, then raise their own family was just as inspiring as Darren’s personal story of perseverance and success in his chosen career.

In the film, Fadiman emphasizes the family dynamic of Darren, Sawalin and their son, Noah. Sawalin is also deaf and communicates solely in sign language. Noah is hearing, and communicates with his father both orally and through signing.

Fadiman first met Darren’s father when they were high school students in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They have been friends for 65 years.

In her four decades as a filmmaker, Fadiman has gotten used to the recognizable titles of “Oscar-nominated” and “Emmy-winning.” She has produced 25 films, seven of which have appeared on PBS. Fadiman debuted her first film, “Radiance,” in 1978 and hasn’t stopped making films since. In 2008, she co-authored the book, “Producing with Passion: Making Films That Change the World” with author Tony Levelle.

Fadiman hopes to connect those attending her screening to the Palo Alto nonprofit Abilities United, an organization committed to inclusion of and advocacy for individuals with developmental disabilities. Abilities United is co-hosting the event and will present Heidi Feldman, a professor of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Stanford University, who will lead a discussion on child language disorders at the screening.

“I’d like to introduce the Abilities United community to a new audience,” Fadiman said. “One of my high hopes is that we can introduce at least 100 more people to the Abilities Unified community.”

“Chef Darren: The Challenge of Profound Deafness.”

Where: Lucie Stern Community Center ballroom, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.

When: Sunday, June 3, 3-5 p.m.

Cost: Free.

Info: Go to Concentric Media.

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Darren’s Restaurant Partners Up with Macallan for Special Dinner on March 16th!

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On Monday, March 16th, Darren’s Restaurant is hosting a special 5 course dinner featuring the Macallan Brand of Scotch. If you’ve been around here for awhile, you know this isn’t my first time at Darren’s. This past summer, I was introduced to this gem of a place located in beautiful Manhattan Beach, just steps away from the beach. The food at Darren’s is beyond amazing, and they also are very Gluten Free friendly!

Be sure to check that out as well in: Gluten Free Fine Dining at Darren’s in Manhattan Beach! I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of this very special event happening on March 16th, so come take a look at what’s in store! If you are not able to attend this event, as I believe it has already sold out, I still highly recommend checking this place out and also giving The Macallan a try! (Full Press Story)

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Darren’s Restaurant to Host a Macallan Food & Scotch Pairing

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I recently had an opportunity to attend a special tasting menu for Darren’s Restaurant in Manhattan Beach. The event is a food / Macallan single malt scotch pairing which will be held on March 16. The event is already sold out.

So why write about it? Because the food was absolutely delicious and a food / scotch pairing is something that I never thought about before. (Full Press Story)

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Fine Dining & Community at Darren’s in Manhattan Beach

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Understanding Darren’s, the upscale and quality-obsessed California cuisine restaurant in downtown Manhattan Beach, requires more than a recitation of its awards. Those recognitions certainly have piled up: a top-25 restaurants in L.A. ranking from Zagat, commendation for its wine list from Wine Spectator and citations for its service, among others.

To understand Darren’s requires more than a familiarity with its menu. It’s true, of course, that chef/owner Darren Weiss’s training in some of Hawaii’s finest kitchens is in evidence in the lineup of offerings. Apparent on the menu, too, is Darren’s quality-centric sourcing of ingredients, including dry-aged USDA Prime beef, fish brought in daily and house-made sauces and spices. (Full Press Story)

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