Pechanga Chef Takes Top Honors from Expert Panel in So Cal Chef Open

Judges' Choice Winner Just Wanted to Give Back


Competing against 12 other professional chefs with a wide variety of talents from across the Southern California region, Chef Ronnel Capacia of Kelsey’s at Pechanga Resort & Casino emerged the winner in the 2016 So Cal Chef Open Judges’ Choice category. Held Monday, October 24 inside the Pechanga Grand Ballroom, Chef Ronnel won out over the competition with his slow-cooked pork belly sliders with BBQ baked beans and chicharrónes. The eight judges, which included regional chefs not competing in the event, food writers and other experts, conducted a blind taste test of all 12 entrants’ dishes. Judges gave high marks for the composition and design of Chef Ronnel’s Pork Belly Sliders, but ultimately the fusion flavors of maple syrup, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and green onions that created the glaze for the tender pork belly, and the fresh, raw vegetable accompaniments and light cucumber salad sold the judges on the 31-year old chef’s creation.

Pork Belly Slider Chef Ronnel Capacia“We were there to have fun and honored to have been chosen to participate to help raise money for Oak Grove Center,” said Capacia. “From the start of the event, we had the biggest line of all the booths. People waited in line for 20 minutes to get one slider. I guess we thought we might win the People’s Choice award, though it’s humbling and a great esteem to win the Judges’ Choice Pinnacle Award.”


Judged by certified executive chefs from the Art Institute in Riverside, Calif., and the only certified master chef in the state, Capacia credits his sous chefs, Steven Agosto and Isreal Hernandez, for earning the Pinnacle Award. The tender pork belly cooked sous vide and simmered for 16 hours to enhance flavor and tenderize the meat probably helped, too.


The Oak Grove Golf Classic and So Cal Chef Open raised $63,467.00, more than double the amount of last year’s events. All proceeds benefit the Oak Grove Center in Murrieta, Calif. Oak Grove provides a residential, educational, and therapeutic treatment center that serves 76 children who live on campus as well as 90 – 100 day students who attend its nonpublic school. Children within the programs are dealing with a variety of psychological, social, emotional, behavioral, medical and neurological problems along with concurrent behavioral difficulties, school problems, family dysfunction and alcohol or substance abuse. Many of the children have suffered a variety of physical and/ or sexual abuse, other traumas or have experienced many other severe social, emotional or behavioral challenges.

Ronnel Capacia Kelseys Head Chef
Ronnel Capacia Kelsey’s Head Chef

About Pechanga Resort & Casino

Pechanga Resort & Casino offers one of the largest and most expansive resort/casino experiences anywhere in the United States. Voted the number one casino in the country by USA TODAY and rated a Four Diamond property by AAA since 2002, Pechanga Resort & Casino provides an unparalleled getaway. Offering more than 3,000 of the hottest slots, table games, world-class entertainment, 517 hotel rooms, dining, spa and golf at Journey at Pechanga, Pechanga Resort & Casino features a destination that meets and exceeds the needs of its guests and the community. Pechanga Resort & Casino is owned and operated by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. For more information, call toll free 877. 711.2946 or visit Follow Pechanga Resort & Casino on Facebook – and on Twitter @PechangaCasino.

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