5th Annual SoCal Chef Open Benefits Oak Grove Center

Monday night marked the 5th annual SoCal Chef Open held at Pechanga Resort and Casino in their Grand Ballroom to benefit the Oak Grove Center For Education, Treatment, and the Arts. The Oak Grove Center is a nonprofit organization in Murrieta helping to rebuild the lives of at-risk children and their families through education and healing.

Each year the Chef Open committee invites select standout chefs from around the Inland Empire to compete in an all out cooking competition for the prestigious title of Top Chef, awarded by the public’s tally of votes. The Judge’s Pinnacle Award is also awarded based on presentation, creativity, taste, and the use of locally sourced ingredients.

This year a total of 12 local chefs competed including;

• Chef Francesco Cusimano from Rustico Ristorante Pizzeria
• Executive Chef Andrew Selz from Cellarz 93
• Executive Chef Steve Stawinski from Wilson Creek Winery
• Chef Daniel Chong-Jimenez from Pechanga Resort & Casino
• Chef Ramon Garcia from Grapes & Tomatoes
• Chef Sharon Cunningham from Table Talk Catering
• Chef Michael Allen Cragg from Temecula Catering
• Chef Pantipa Kunanupatham from Tasty Thai Cuisine
• Chef Toribio Martin from The Lazy Dog CafĂ©
• Chef Rosie O’Connor from Provecho Grill
• Chef Rene' Ehmcke from The Gambling Cowboy
• Chef Chris Baily from Baily’s Old Town Temecula

Monday’s event brought in over 450 hungry people who all tasted and cast their votes for the best tasting culinary creation. The 2012 People’s Choice Award went to Executive Chef Andrew Selz from Cellarz 93 for his expertly created crabcakes and spicy aioli.

The 2012 Judge’s Pinnacle Award was presented to Chef Francesco Cusimano from
Rustico Ristorante & Pizzeria for the best overall presentation, creativity, taste and bonus points for using locally foraged produce or proteins. He served up a homemade pappardelle pasta, made using local organic eggs from the Temecula Farmers Market, topped with wild boar ragu and garnished with aged romano cheese for a dish that taste like the “splendor of Autumn.”

This year’s Chef Open was especially intriguing in that Menifee’s own Rosie O’Connor from Provecho Grill was invited to cook and compete. While Provecho didn’t take home the top title the executive judging committee commended them for having the “most passion for their food”. Provecho served up tastings of their famous chicken enchilada in a smoky sweet mole sauce and the Pambazo sandwich.


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