Orange County Sunday Night Chef Fight


There is a brand-new “Champion Chef of Orange County” as Chef Lindsay Smith- Rosales of Nirvana Grille in Mission Viejo and Laguna Beach captured the title in last night’s Orange County Sunday Night Chef Fight at the Standards of Excellence showroom in Huntington Beach, narrowly defeating Chef Phil Knoke of SteerCrazy International BBQ & Catering in San Juan Capistrano by a razor-thin split decision.

Chef Knoke kicked off the Chef Fight with three outstanding dishes using the base ingredients of eggs, radish, and couscous and the mystery ingredient of honey. He began with a Hawaiian Cucumber and Radish Salad dressed with sweet sesame, onion, and rice wine vinegar that also included a hard-boiled quail egg brined with ginger. His second dish was a traditional Kahlua Pork smoked for 10 hours, smothered in his secret Hillbilly Pirate Hawaiian BBQ sauce and served with his coconut milk and scallion couscous garnished with pickled ginger. Finally, in lieu of a traditional dessert, Chef Knoke presented hi version of a digestif, a Polynesian B&B Hot Toddy made from Green Tea, Ginger, Honey, Lemon, Ginseng, Cognac and Benedictine with a cinnamon stick garnish.

Chef Smith-Rosales countered with three dishes of her own. She started with her own version of a radish and cucumber salad, this one also featuring yogurt, golden raisins, orange zest, mint, and organic orange blossom honey. Next was her second course, grilled herb-crusted lamb lollipops that had been roasted in a veal demi glace, served with couscous prepared with sun-dried tomatoes, cilantro, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and her house-made blackening spice. Finally, she wowed the crowd with her dessert, a classic chocolate souffle drenched with a Gran Marnier Creme Anglaise.

As with every Chef Fight, the decision as to who would be the new “Champion Chef of Orange County” was left up to our live audience of 40 local foodies, who after tasting each chef’s creations act as judge, jury, and taste-cutioner. Chef Knoke triumphed in the Taste category, winning 186 to 184, but Chef Smith-Rosales ultimately took home top prize by winning the Creativity category 181 to 172 and the Appearance category 185 to 159.

Chef Smith-Rosales will return to defend her title at our next Orange County Sunday Night Chef Fight on Sunday, May 15th at the Standards of Excellence showroom in Huntington Beach against our next Challenger Chef, Chef Nicola (Nick) Bellazzi, chef/owner of Enne Cucina in San Clemente. Tickets for the May 15th Orange County Sunday Night Chef Fight will go on sale March 16th exclusively online at

Posted 2/24/11