During our trip to Temecula, we were invited by our friend Jimmy Fu to the So-Cal Chef Open at Pechanga Resort and Casino which was held for the benefit of the Oak Grove Center. The Oak Grove Center’s mission is to rebuild the lives of at-risk children and their families through educating, healing, restoring relationships, building character and instilling hope. It is a great cause and it was a fantastic event. Attending this event with us was luxury travel and lifestyle blogger Pam Rossi from Always5star.com.

The 11th Annual So-Cal Chef’s Open was hosted by volunteers, and kids that are part of the Oak Grove Center’s programs. It was so sweet watching children be able to put their fears aside and read in front of a crowd, telling a little about themselves in the mix. It really brought the entire focus of the event to those special kids in need and why we were all there.

The chefs donated their time and their food and competed in good fun. The Summit Ballroom at the Pechanga Resort and the Casino was set up so the chef tables lined the room in a square. Visitors were given 3 tickets to vote with and they were able to go around the square and taste each chef prepared dish. If they felt the dish was a winner they would deposit their ticket in the chef’s box.

As we tasted through the dishes it was very evident that the chefs competing were in it to win it. It was all in good fun but I could absolutely see and taste the effort that was made to create each dish. There were some WOW’s there that night. Even a foodie like me was impressed.

Some of our favorite bites of the night included:

Shrimp Creole with Andoullie sausage on a bed of Cajun rice. This won 2nd place for our vote!
Duck taco served on a jicama tortilla. This was our favorite!
Beef rib with red potatoes, garnished with zucchini sticks
Italian beef ragu served over homemade pasta and topped with sour cream.

The winners were judged by professional chefs including Chef Dean Thomas of the Inn at Europa Village. They also had a popular people’s choice vote. Here is a list of the winners!

Pinnacle Award Winners

1st Place Cork | Fire Kitchen – Chef Matthew Steffen

2nd Place was a TIE between

The Naughty Pig Butchery – Chef Daniel Johnson and Avensole Winery –Chef Armando Cota

3rd Place The Chef’s Grille –Chef Martin Corso

People’s Choice Award Winners

1st The Chef’s Grille –Chef Martin Corso

2nd The Naughty Pig Butchery – Chef Daniel Johnson

3rd Bamboo House: Asian Bistro – Chef Dong Ho

Although it is corny to say, everyone who attended this event walked away winners as the food was delicious and it helped children in need. The chefs that competed certainly brought their “A” games along with them and a great evening was had by all. I hope you attend next year’s event as I am sure that it will be bigger and better with even more delicious treats from the competing chefs.


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