This coming Monday October 20 Pechanga Resort and Casino will play host to the 7th Annual So Cal Chef Open. Held for the second consecutive year in Pechanga’s Grand Ballroom. The event is a fundraiser for Oak Grove Center For Education Treatment and The Arts. Oak Grove’s CEO Tammy Wilson is the main organizer for the event and I asked her to tell me why Oak Grove matters. “Oak Grove Center is an independent 501(c)3 non-profit organization that depends on local support in the delivery of our mission to rebuild the lives of at-risk children and their families through educating, healing, restoring relationships, building character and instilling hope. Children come to Oak Grove with a variety of social, emotional, behavioral, and academic problems, and many of the children have suffered physical or sexual abuse, neglect, and serious family conflict. Sports and recreation build character, teach teamwork, and are beneficial in treatment and our new Sensory Room helps provide therapy and healing for our children with autism.”
I asked Tammy what impact the Chef Open has on Oak Grove. “The 12th Annual Oak Grove Golf Classic and the SO-CAL Chef Open is being held to support the Oak Grove Sports and Recreation Programs. We are raising funds to support our CIF sports, cheer, dance, martial arts, volleyball, intramural sports and more. We are so excited that we have opened our gym and are expanding our recreation programs even further. We have added classes for Cross-Fit, weight class and Pilates. This program serves all of our at-risk and special needs children and youth, including those with autism.”
What is she most excited about for this year? “I am excited about our Chef Open Celebrity Judges: Steve Cazel – Cutthroat Kitchen & Survivor, Amanda Colello – Hell’s Kitchen and Rocky Osborn – Co-Founder ACES Comedy Club. This will add a new element to the event. Of course there is still the Top Chef award which is based on guest votes, but there is also the Judges Pinnacle Award. We are also thrilled that the live auction will feature a golf package at Pebble Beach and $4000 credit toward flooring, cabinetry or design from Pacific Flooring.”
Finally, I asked Tammy about the changes she’s seen as the event has grown over the years. “In the years before the Chef Open the golfers were tired and some would leave prior to the dinner. The Chef Open is so great they now stay and invite others to join them. The Chef Open has become an event within itself. For the first two years at Pechanga we used the Journey patio, this is the third year we have been in the Grand Ballroom since the event has grown every year. We are very grateful for the generosity of Pechanga, the incredible talent and generosity of the chefs and so appreciate all our guests that come to support the sports program for the kids but end up having a great time with unbelievable food and friends!”
I also got to visit with one of the competing chefs, Rosie O’Connor from Provecho Grill and celebrity judge Amanda Colello who competed on Hell’s Kitchen in 2011. Temecula resident Amanda first became involved with the Chef Open a few years back when she was Executive Chef at Barley & Hops. She was one of the competing chefs and at that time got her first introduction to Oak Grove. She competed again the following year with a different employer and then last year attended as a member of the public and cast her vote for the People’s Choice award. She comes full circle this year having been invited to serve as a celebrity judge and says she feels honored to be a part of such a great cause. She says her time in Hell’s Kitchen taught her humility. She considers herself a perfectionist when it comes to food, much like her mentor Gordon Ramsay. “I need to keep in mind that the food I will be judging is being presented to me as someone else’s Art.” She’s grateful to have the honor to taste it. Amanda is excited to help get the community involved in a really great cause. This year competing chefs get to plate their dishes on plates they choose, and she looks forward to seeing creative presentations with locally foraged foods. As she puts it “we are artists, participating in the Culinary Arts.” Colello now works at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, a multi-function facility creating everything from pre-opera dinners to weddings and quinceaneras. She also created the Purple Growler Project, benefiting Michelle’s Place, a Temecula breast cancer resource center.
Provecho Grill in Sun City will soon be celebrating its 3rd anniversary. That’s a true milestone in the restaurant business and Executive Chef Rosie O’Connor told me the first year was certainly the toughest. Rosie visited the Perris campus of Oak Grove and was tremendously impressed by what she saw and says Provecho is happy to give anything they can do to help. Monday she’ll be cooking a flat-iron steak with Ancho barbeque chili with a chile guerito, with Cajun shrimp inside served atop mashed potatoes. They’ll also serve a mini pambazo, a little slider of Angus beef, chorizo and potato covered with sauce also called a torta ahogada, a drowned torta. Rosie says Monday’s event feels like more of a camaraderie than a competition to her. “It’s like a family reunion.” She dines at Trattoria Toscana about once a week, she’s known chef Bracken Blucher from Baily’s for years as well as chef Louis Lepe from La Bella Vita. “It feels like we’re all just coming together for a good cause.” Provecho focuses on different regions of Mexico and features certified Angus beef and sustainable seafood. Everything’s made fresh daily and all sauces are made from scratch. Provecho has a taco Tuesday, a fajitas night, live music and a weekend brunch. They’re located at 2862 Cherry Hills Boulevard in Sun City.