The competition was fair, delicious and fierce at this year’s 10th Annual SoCal Chef Open, sponsored by Pechanga Resort & Casino, Leoness Cellars and the Temecula Valley Winery Management. Competing against seven other professional chefs with a wide variety of talents from across Southern California, Chef Martin Venegas of the signature resort restaurant, The Great Oak Steakhouse, at Pechanga Resort & Casino took home duo awards this year. Held Monday, September 11, inside the Pechanga Grand Ballroom, Chef Martin won the People’s Choice and Pinnacle awards, beating out his competition with his seared tenderloin. Last year, Pechanga’s Kelsey’s Chef Ronnel Capacia also took home the Pinnacle Award (chef’s choice).
Chef Martin prepared a seared tenderloin with shallot marmalade, foie gras butter and a pinot noir reduction atop a braised leek base. The tenderloin was topped with crispy potatoes to enhance the texture. The judging panel consisted of 13 other chefs, food writers and other experts not competing in the event. To determine the winner, they conducted a blind taste test of all entrants’ dishes. The panel raved about Chef Martin’s seared tenderloin and immediately knew he had a chance of winning once they had a taste. The dish was praised for its impeccable flavor profile and presentation. The crowd was ‘wowed’ and commended the chef, saying his combination was one-of-a-kind.
“Top Pechanga chefs have always participated in the SoCal Chef Open, so I’m thrilled to have been one of them at this year’s event,” said Venegas. “It was great to be able to do what I love alongside some of the best chefs in our area. I was pretty confident in the flavor profile I was creating. Everyone has a different perspective on what they like to see in a tenderloin, but I knew the flavors and texture I was presenting were all perfectly paired. The braised leeks went well with everything and drew it all together, while the crispy potatoes added a whole other dimension of texture.”
The Oak Grove Golf Classic and So Cal Chef Open raised thousands for sports and recreational programs, along with a special goal of adding a baseball field for all students at the Oak Grove Center in Murrieta, Calif. Oak Grove provides a residential, educational, and therapeutic treatment center for 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.
Some other competing chefs in the 10th Annual SoCal Chef Open were Robert Renzoni Vineyards’ Mama Rosa Trattoria Chef Felix Aguilar, Chef Anthony Castillo from 1909 Temecula, Chef Christopher White of Vineyard Ranch at Temecula Assisted Living and Memory Care, Jennifer Sevilla from Crab Boil Catering, Chef Mandy Ramos from The Shamrock Irish Pub, Chef Leone D’Arcangelo of Fresco Grill and Wine Bar, Chef Matt Green of Ceflavor, and Chef Matthew Steffen of Temecula Creek Inn.