Fresh Faces, Familiar Flavors: Downtown’s Pez Cantina Takes Center Stage at 2024 Masters of Taste

Masters of taste

The seventh annual Masters of Taste is one of L.A.’s premier luxury food and beverage tasting festivals. With its return come fresh faces, all promising to add even more flavor to the successful non-profit event purposed at helping the less fortunate. 

The Sunday afternoon event returns to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm, with 100% of the proceeds directly benefiting Union Station Homeless Services, a non-profit organization providing over 50 years of homeless services and housing for thousands of neighbors.

For years, Masters of Taste has brought together over 100 culinary masters and beverage maestros, offering delectable dishes, savory and sweet, along with signature handcrafted cocktail tastings from over 25 spirit brands and top cocktail bars.

Iconic Rosebowl in Pasadena – photo courtesy of Union Station Homeless Shelter

Masters of Taste 2024 marks the 7th anniversary of this celebrated event where 3000 people mix and mingle on the grassy field in the iconic Rosebowl, enjoying interactive games, and touching town at the 50-Yard-Line for exclusive VIP cocktails while others spend their afternoon moving from scrumptious station to station, picking up samples and rinsing them down with select wines, local craft breweries, cold-pressed juices, and cold-brew coffee.

For the past few years, the event has showcased downtown’s own Michael and Kwini Reed as honorable hosts. The culinary power couple boasts three restaurants across the Southland, stemming from their first location, Poppy & Rose in the Fashion District. They work together, with the exception of times when at least one of the two graces the airways, showcasing their talents world-wide on cable TV channels such as the Food Network. 

 Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez- photo courtesy Pez Cantina

This year, the two will pass the Masters of Taste hosting torch to another culinary power couple and favorite of Downtown, Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez of Bunker Hill’s Pez Cantina. 

Chef Bret Thompson’s culinary journey began at the renowned California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He honed his skills at esteemed establishments such as Aqua in San Francisco, Roy’s in Hawaii, and Pinot Blanc in St. Helena, California. Seeking international inspiration, Chef Bret traveled to Spain to study under Chef Martin Berasategui at Restaurante Martin Berasategui, a Michelin 2-star establishment in Lasarte, Spain. 

He further expanded his culinary repertoire in Lebanon at Atlas Café, then studied under Chef Bernard Loiseau at La Cote d’Or, his Michelin 3-star restaurant in Saulieu, France, and then at L’Arpege, Chef Alain Passard’s Michelin 2-star restaurant in Paris. 

Throughout his career, Bret also had an extensive tenure with The Patina Group, working at multiple restaurants, running catering operations, and ultimately becoming the corporate executive chef, overseeing all restaurant operations for the entire group. 

While there, Bret garnered accolades, including being named “Chef of the Year 2002” by the Orange County Business Journal during his time as Executive Chef at Catal Restaurant in Anaheim. Eventually, Bret moved on and co-founded and became a partner at the iconic Milk Ice Cream Parlor & Bakeshop in Los Angeles, and he also opened his own Market Restaurant and Catering, which he successfully sold in 2014. 

In 2015, Chef Bret Thompson joined forces with his wife, Lucy Thompson-Ramirez, to embark on a new culinary matrimony adventure. 

Lucy Thompson-Ramirez brings her unique perspective and expertise to the front of the house at Pez Cantina. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Lucy migrated to the United States with her family at a young age. She pursued her education at the University of Santa Barbara, majoring in sociology and minoring in Spanish. Lucy’s first career path led her into the fashion industry, where she excelled in sales and later established her own showroom with her brother called Siblings Showroom. After a successful 18-year tenure in fashion, Lucy made a seamless transition into the hospitality industry alongside her husband. 

Good times in Pasadena – photo courtesy of Union Station Homeless Shelter

Foodies abound, every dollar raised at the 2024 Masters of Taste event will benefit the work of Union Station Homeless Services (Union Station), a local organization successfully fighting to end homelessness. Over the last six years, Masters of Taste has impressively raised close to $3 million, helping countless families and individuals find a secure and welcoming place to call home.

Masters of Taste 2024 is a 100% outdoor event. Additionally, all guests will receive their very own Masters-branded utensils and hand-sanitizer keepsakes. 

The Seventh Annual Masters of Taste 2024 takes place on Sunday, April 7th, 2024, and this is a 21+ event at the Rowebowl in Pasadena from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Author: Keri Freeman

Military mom and proud parent, artist, writer, musician and film maker. Cocktail connoisseur. Publisher of DTLA Weekly.