A mysterious fire closed his upscale, elegant restaurant, but Anaheim White House owner and chef Bruno Serato isn’t going to let that stop him from feeding the area’s needy children for no charge as he has done for years.
“I have two priorities — one is feeding the children,” Serato told City News Service.
“The second project is to find jobs for the employees who were working for me. When I get finished with that I’ll take care of the rest. My two priorities right now are the children and my crew.”
Serato received many invitations to use kitchens throughout the county to feed the needy children, something he has become well known for, but he settled on the Highway 39 Event Center in Anaheim because it was close to home.
“Highway 39’s location is not too far away from the restaurant,” Serato said.
“The Marconi Museum called me and said, `Bruno, you can use my kitchen 100 percent,’ ” Serato said.
Feeding the children Monday evening “was the best medication I could receive,” he said.
“It was my therapy to deal with the tragedy,” he added. “They make me smile. They make me happy. I was very emotional.”
What’s also helped lift his spirits was the offers of support from his colleagues, he said.
“I’ve never seen a community so close to me as I feel right now,” he said. “I’m a guy who always says hand in hand that’s what we should always do to change the world.”
Serato said he also has received offers of help from the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, where he has directed some of his customers to spend Valentine’s Day with since the White House was heavily damaged by fire Saturday.
Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt said there was nothing new to report Monday on the investigation of the fire’s cause. Results from laboratory testing of various electrical components are needed and the investigation could take weeks to months to conclude, he added.
Over the past dozen years, Serato has fed hundreds of thousands of meals to needy children from Orange County and Long Beach motels, his publicist, Frank Groff, said.
Serato also started programs to help families get into permanent homes and to train youth for careers in the hospitality industry, Groff said.
“A GoFundMe page has been created to help him rebuild the restaurant, keep his charitable work going and restore his dream,” Groff said. “With enough funds, he plans to help his staff who are now unemployed.”
The page is at www.gofundme.com/AnaheimWhiteHouse, he said.
Local venues have also stepped forward to help, Groff said. Pearl East, an outdoor mall in Rowland Heights and Highway 39 Event Center in Anaheim have offered their facilities to accommodate banquets scheduled at the White House and their kitchens to prepare meals for children.
The cause of the blaze was still unknown, but Groff said work crews were installing carpet upstairs in the restaurant until 3 a.m. Saturday.
The restaurant started out as a home, built by Dosithe Gervais in 1909, according to the company’s website.
Mr. and Mrs. George Waterman purchased the home in 1916; but soon after, the home was sold to the Truxaw family, who would call the mansion their home for 50 years.
In 1978, Mrs. Anthony Bouch purchased the home with designs to open an antique store. After making $100,000 in renovations, however, her health failed and she was unable to fulfill her dream, according to the website.
Jim and Barbara Stovall purchased the home in 1981, planning to build condominiums in its place, even hiring an architect to help with the design.
However, on the eve of the scheduled demolition, Stovall told her husband that she couldn’t bear the thought of the home being destroyed.
New plans were then drawn up, almost immediately, for the restoration of the home as “The White House Restaurant,” which opened on New Year’s Eve of 1981.
Serato is an Italian immigrant who came to the United States with $50 in his pocket and saved the money to open his restaurant 30 years ago, Groff said. “He is known worldwide for his charity work and he even mortgaged his own home during the recession to keep his charity work going.”
–City News Service
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