Event - Chef Cathy Pavlos Cooking Demo (Golden Foodies)

Brace yourselves. The Golden Foodie Awards 2013 are coming! They are kicking it off with a slew of fantastic foodie events such as they did last year (the events are listed at the end of this post and are updated as far as today). Last night I attended the first one for the year - a cooking demonstration by the wonderful Chef Cathy Pavlos of LUCCA Cafe. It actually made me remember that the first time I came across Chef Cathy was at the 2012 cooking demonstration hosted by the Golden Foodie Awards. How funny how things come full circle isn't it? After seeing her in action and talking to Duc about her delicious food, we visited LUCCA Café again and again to get tastes of her culinary genius.


The event took place in the beautiful Sub-Zero and Wolf showroom in Costa Mesa. Present during the event were fresh strawberries by Melissa's Produce, bread by Sadie Rose, and wines by La Crema. Our emcee for the evening was Charlie Plummer, a sommelier from Jackson Family Estates, and just a fantastic all-around host with high energy, fun jokes, and great conversation topics. A great incentive for guests to attend other than the star of the show itself was that all ticket proceeds were to benefit Share Our Strength - No Kid Hungry, a very worthy cause that I myself support monthly. Thank you to the OC Restaurant Association for the invitation to attend last night's event! We were both definitely impressed with the full production set-up of Code Four, a huge change from last year's cooking demonstration events.


So if you're curious about the background on Chef Cathy and LUCCA Café itself, you should get to know them both better and dine at the restaurant some day. You'll find it in Irvine and spot different types of environments depending on the time of the day you go. Homestyle cooking governs all of the inspiration for the dishes but you'll also see a bit of chic and classy cuisine throughout as well. Try a hearty breakfast one day or a lively lunch in the European bistro style. If you'd rather impress a date during dinner, you'll find LUCCA transformed into an exquisite gourmand's choice spot. It features a tastefully curated wine bar, cheese & charcuterie deli, and seasonal menus.


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. LUCCA is quite known for its certified Angus beef, free-range turkey, hormone-free chicken, wild salmon, cage-free eggs, AND locally grown organic produce. Without a question, seasonal is in! During the event, we got to hear about how she comes from an architecture background (and still uses that knowledge to "build" her food and flavors) and was one of the first "grill" women of McDonald's back in the 1970s. Bet you didn't know that she only just changed careers in 2001, just four years before opening LUCCA!


So we were a tad spoiled because the menu for the night was unbelievable. What was on the menu? New Zealand baby lamb chops with smoked herbs & paprika, finished with black lava salt over garlic wilted baby spinach and deconstructed gazpacho on the side. Excuse me while I cook with my pinky up. I guess that's how we foodies eat in Orange County. The lamb dish actually was one of the items on her monthly Sunday Supper menu (every month the theme changes) that got so popular it became a regular item. Why New Zealand lamb by the way? It's milder in taste! Chef Cathy cooked it in the convection oven (gives you more control than on a grill or pan) after it had marinated a bit and then seasoned with black lava sea salt. Fun fact that the audience learned that night: flavored sea salt should be used at the end of cooking/plating so that its flavors are the first taste you get. Also, Chef Cathy emphasized a few times that cooks should not be afraid to use sea salt generously as it only has 60-70% of the salinity you would expect from table salt.


Throughout her whole demo, she gave the audience fantastic tips and advice on cooking and answered questions that came through both the audience and Twitter followers. Some questions that came in asked what was the one thing Chef Cathy always needs in her pantry (Garlic! What other answer would an Italian give you?), how old does a lamb need to be to be considered a lamb (3-6 months and is categorized by the # of ribs in a pound), and can you smoke lamb (yes but it's "hard to roll it up into small pieces of paper" - the running joke for the night but the answer was yes). There was also some further inquiry into her upcoming second restaurant, Provenance. I certainly learned some facts that I didn't know before such as that most of the menu would be cooked via sous vide and that there would be a 1,300 square foot organic garden in the restaurant space (their "Farm"), allowing diners to see where their food came from and eat around it.

All in all, it was a fantastic event with plenty of audience interaction, good food (the lamb chops were just perfect), a fun chef & emcee, and a great venue to host a production in. If you missed the Golden Foodie Awards last year, you can read about it here and then you can mark your calendars for attending this year's! The 2013 red carpet event will take place on September 29th at the Fairmont Newport Beach from 6pm-11pm. Tickets are not yet available for purchase but the tiers are as following:

  • May 1st - June 1st $150/person
  • June 2nd - August 1st $175/person
  • After August 2nd $200/person

If you're interested in the other events lined up for this year, they will be:

  • Foodies and Fashionistas (May 18, 2013 from 4pm to 7pm)  – The District at Tustin Legacy
  • The Golden Chef Series Demonstration featuring Chef David Suscavage, House of Blues in Anaheim (May 29, 2013 from 6pm to 7:30pm) – Sub-Zero and Wolf Show Room
  • The Golden Chef Series Demonstration featuring Chef Christian De La Vara, Brunos Trattoria in Brea (June 26, 2013 from 6pm to 7:30pm) – Sub-Zero and Wolf Show Room
  •  The Golden Chef Series Demonstration featuring Chef Louie Jocson, Red Table in Huntington Beach (July 31, 2013 from 6pm to 7:30pm) – Sub-Zero and Wolf Show Room

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos are available on Facebook.



  1. That lamb looks amazing! Also, great photos - I've always found it tough to take photos with indoor lighting, which is often harsh. :)

    1. The lighting seemed to work out pretty well in that showroom though. =]

    2. Louise, it is a bit of a challenge to shoot an event with indoor lighting especially if different areas of the room are lit differently (type of bulb, intensity, how much of the area is lit, etc.) Or even worse, one area is lit by two different light sources (like incandescent plus fluorescent reflected off of brushed steel) and you get a weird mix of coloring in your pictures!

      When it comes to food, I've found that it helps to find an area with consistent lighting that you could work with and (if you're doing food photography) just bring the plate/food item to that area and use it as your staging area. That way, you get lighting that you could expect and your background would be consistent from picture to picture. You'll have a little more control and less stress changing your camera settings.