Event - Chef Competition Demo #1

The Golden Foodie Awards are coming! There are many pre-events going on before the actual awards on September 30th as well as voting for several categories including best food blog (voting's still going on if you want to give me a little vote!). You can read about their Next Golden Chef competition by clicking here. Anyhow, I had the pleasure of attending their first chef competition demo (there's another one in two weeks) in the Sub-Zero & Wolf Showroom in Costa Mesa. It was exciting to see the culinary masters at work and inspiring to gaze in awe at the gorgeous kitchen set-up in the showroom.


The event featured two talented chefs: Chef Cathy Pavlos from LUCCA Café and Chef Paul Buchanan from Primal Alchemy. They were presented with ingredients from Melissa’s Produce, Cabot Cheese, Sadie Rose Bread, Santa Monica Seafood, and Jidori Chicken and limited to using only what was given in just a 60 minute cooking period. All attendees were treated to refreshments from the multiple Golden Foodie Awards sponsors. Our wonderfully entertaining emcee for the evening was Susan Irby, the Bikini Chef, who told us funny stories such as ones about elephant garlic and how she got her name as the Bikini Chef. She also interviewed the chefs so that the audience could get a sense of where they were coming from.


Born in Huntington Beach, Chef Cathy Pavlos from LUCCA Café started cooking through lessons learned from her Italian grandmother; later, Chef Cathy went through a culinary boot camp to hone her skills. Her style is to deal with no hormones, steroids, antibiotics, etc. and focus on sustainable, local food products. As for Chef Paul Buchanan from Primal Alchemy, he was born in Fullerton and unlike Chef Cathy who owns a restaurant, his company focuses on catering (his business card says catering for 2-2000). Another supporter of local ingredients, he was right at home with the ingredients the competition presented for him and even brought some secret ingredients of his own.


I had been fortunate enough to snag a front-row seat and was in front of Chef Paul. He was quite humorous, and it was very apparent just how much fun he was having while cooking. I was impressed with the ease and speed at which he prepared his ingredients. There were even some moments when he wasn't even looking at what he was chopping but still continuing just as rapidly! Both chefs, though lighthearted, were very concentrated in their dishes but still managed to offer good words of advice to the audience such as Chef Paul's mini-lesson on induction cooking.


The judges for the competition were six in number and as one said while Susan was making her rounds, they were selected at random. There were food enthusiasts but also other chefs. Lucky them for getting to taste all the food! I believe everyone in the room was impressed by the chefs though, particularly when Chef Cathy lit up the place with cognac in her pan. Chef Paul made constant use of the stunning ovens in the showroom (by the way, I picked up a catalog for Sub-Zero & Wolf and am in love!) and informed us often of which settings to use to prepare the dishes he made. I enjoyed seeing their preparations at work and also how clean they generally kept their stations - Chef Paul even took the time to wash dishes every once in a while. I do that too when I cook; does this make me a star chef yet?


The first to present was Chef Cathy who had prepared two plates of delectable eats. One of the dishes made use of the Black Market Bakery's red wine pasta (pasta made with red wine). It had chicken breast on top smothered in a mock cacciatore sauce made with pureed tomatoes; slightly unripe heirloom tomatoes sided the chicken. That was then topped with cheese from Cabot Cheese, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. Many noted how hearty the pasta was. Her next dish was the cognac poached shrimp accompanied by a chili berry sauce made with blueberries, raspberries, Sriracha, jalapenos, lime, and other such goodies to give it a sweet but spicy kick. A lime slice and some cilantro made a colorful garnish. Every judge seemed to love this dish, and why not? There was so much flair in both the preparation and ingredients.


Chef Paul had had multiple dishes in mind so presented three different types on one plate. Fortunately for the rest of us seated in the front that weren't judges, he made plenty of plates so I even got to taste his delicious creations. With his own blend of coffee, chiles, and salts, he had rubbed Jidori chicken before searing it and roasting; this created succulent morsels with complex tastes. This chicken was topped with a berry gastric of blackberries, raspberries, red wine vinegar, honey, and salt (blended, strained, reduced, served) that was very tartly sweet. Underneath the chicken were roasted red thumb potatoes with rosemary, elephant garlic, and scallions - they were so crisp and good that I almost want to say that they were my favorite. He had also created a dish of Thai shrimp which had been marinated in fish sauce, cilantro, lime, and red chili pepper. The panini using Sadie Rose Bread had been buttered on both outer sides to be pressed into his pan. The inner sides were spread with whole grain mustard and layered with fresh basil, Cabot Cheese cheddar, and impressively his own finocchiona (made from a pig he slaughtered himself!). That was so savory that I wish I had the whole loaf he started out with!

I know - my post sounded a little biased but that was only because I didn't try both chefs' dishes. However, I could tell by their dedication that everything tasted perfect. It was a delightful night with a good crowd of interested guests. To the audience's dismay, the vote came out to be a tie between the two so perhaps a Mystery Basket Challenge showdown will crop up in the coming weeks. We'll have to stay tuned to see how these two chefs will face off for a single winner. Again, the event had gracious sponsors and refreshments from such (mm mm!) but that was not all. We all also walked away with a swag bag full of amazing goodies including grill paddles. I'm looking forward to Sunday's social where Casey's Cupcakes will be unveiling their Golden Velvet Cupcake!

Photography by Minerva Thai. More photos available on Facebook.



  1. Wow everything looks so delicious! And Chef Paul sounds like a fun person.