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Aarón Sánchez
Aarón Sánchez
Courtesy of Aarón Sánchez

Aarón Sánchez Fetes Mom Zarela Martínez at Parkinson's Fundraiser

Celebrity chef and Food Network star Aarón Sánchez comes from a long line of strong women who have influenced his culinary career. His grandmother is cookbook author Aida Gabilondo, and his mother is 72-year-old restaurateur and cookbook author Zarela Martínez. She also serves on the board of the Mexican Cultural Institute of New York.

Sánchez says his mother, a 2003 James Beard Hall of Fame honoree, was diagnosed with Parkinson's about a decade ago. At first, the news was devastating to him, but after learning more about the disease that's estimated to affect 930,000 people in the United States by 2020, he felt better. "The less I knew, the more I was concerned," he says. "But you look at people like Michael J. Fox and Montel Williams, and they are living productive lives. I've become well researched in living with Parkinson's. When you have facts, things are not so scary."

Sánchez says the nature of the disease is there are good and bad days. "It's all about how you choose to cope with it. Knowing my mom and what she's overcome in life, this is one more thing she's going to tackle and win."

This Wednesday, October 23, Sánchez will host Night at the Market at the Lincoln Eatery. The evening, a benefit for the Parkinson's Foundation, will honor Sánchez's mother and Mindy McIlroy, president of the Miami Beach-based real-estate company Terranova. McIlroy was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2014.

Sánchez will be joined by a host of celebrated chefs, including Michael Schwartz, Stephan Pyles, Telemundo’s James Tahhan, Sue Torres, John Mooney, and Richard Hales. "I wanted to get a great group of chefs together to celebrate my mom," Sánchez says. "Chefs are so generous and they're always giving back. I'm leaning on my good friend Michael Schwartz to set the tone."

Lincoln Eatery's food-hall layout is the perfect setting for the walk-around event, Sánchez says. "I didn't want to do something sit-down. I wanted an evening that was approachable, casual, convivial, and lively. The seriousness of the evening lies in talking about why we're there."

In addition to several food stations, there will be music by Private Property Band and DJ Danny Stern, along with a silent auction and free-flowing spirits. Attendees will have the chance to vote for their favorite dish, and the winner will receive the Best Bite award. Sánchez will also sell his new book, Where I Come From: Life Lessons From a Latino Chef; a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Parkinson’s Foundation. The chef will sign copies of the book purchased at the event.

Sánchez says the Parkinson's Foundation is a multifaceted organization that specializes in research, patient care, and education. "They try to dispel some of the connotations surrounding a Parkinson's diagnosis." He says that with the right care, his mother is quite active. "My mother is beautiful and confident. She has a lot of projects, and we just recorded a podcast together. That speaks volumes of how the understanding and treatment of Parkinson's has progressed."

Sánchez also says he looks forward to spending time in the Magic City. "I love Miami for the Latino vibe and energy. I feel like maybe I can go work and have a mini-vacation at the same time."

While he's in Miami, don't be surprised if you spot the celebrity chef at some of the city's best restaurants. "I go to the same restaurants over and over again. I go to Michael's Genuine and have my little seafood tower. If it's season, I'll roll over to Joe's Stone Crab for some jumbos and get happy." Sánchez also likes to stop by Palacio de Los Jugos for pan con lechón and to "get my rice and beans on" before "showing Upland a little love." Finally, you might catch him at Broken Shaker sipping cocktails.

Before partying, though, Sánchez will celebrate his mother with an evening of food and drinks. "I personally think she's doing great. I want her to know she's beautiful and vibrant and I'm grateful to her."

Night at the Market With Host Aarón Sánchez. 7 to 11 p.m. Wednesday, October 23, at the Lincoln Eatery, 723 Lincoln Ln., Miami Beach; 305-695-8700; thelincolneatery.com. Tickets cost $250 via parkinson.org/market.

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