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'So-Cal Chef Open' to feature top chefs and a delectable array of culinary creations

The 17th Annual "So-Cal Chef Open" promises to be another delicious culinary adventure. The event will be held Aug. 12, at Temecula's Peltzer Farms & Winery.

Southern California chefs will be competing for two awards: The "Pinnacle Award," and "People's Choice." The Pinnacle Award is chosen through blind taste scoring by a panel of culinary experts. The People's Choice award is determined by event guests.

The chef competition promises to be entertaining, but the event also has a deeper purpose. It's a fundraiser for the Oak Grove Center's Culinary Arts Vocational Program. The program, based in Temecula, provides at-risk and special needs youth the experience and employable skills necessary to help them transition successfully into independent adulthood.

Several award-winning chefs were present at the media preview, serving "tapas-style" samples of their creations. The samples were all unique and exquisite.

Chef "KT" Keion Taylor of "Eat 310," a catering establishment, served a creative Cajun Ceviche. He took a traditional ceviche made with shrimp, and gave it a Cajun twist by adding crawfish, bell peppers, and Cajun spices. He also added his own freshly made Cajun seasoning.

Chef KT commented, "You get all of your Southern Cajun-style flavors in the ceviche."

The ceviche was cool and hot concurrently! Chef KT's slogan is, "Making Your Taste Buds Dance." He proved it with his robust, spicy and savory creation! Chef KT placed third in the 2021 People's Choice.

Chef Mario Amaral, of "Savage Chef" in Menifee, has taken top prizes in many significant culinary competitions, and took home the Pinnacle Award in 2022 and 2023. For the media preview, he offered a Creamy Parmesan Polenta to the guests. This culinary marvel was topped with caviar, and crowned with diminutive fresh flowers. As I dipped my spoon in the cup, it slid easily through the silky creation. The dreamlike flavor was far superior to any polenta I have tasted. I immediately understood why it was the Pinnacle Award winner last year.

Chef Mario enjoyed visiting with guests, and equally enjoyed showcasing his culinary creation. "We are having a good time, and it's for a good cause," he said.

Chef Nana – Michelle Ann Montoya's specialty is New Mexico-style cuisine. Her restaurant and catering service, "Nana's Tamales," is based in Temecula. Chef Nana is from New Mexico, and she uses recipes handed down in her family for several generations.

She said, "It's all about the chiles – everything is red or green."

Tamales are painstakingly complicated to create, and Chef Nana's tamales are outstanding, with a rich flavor and a bit of a bite from the chiles. Chef Nana was People's Choice winner in 2022 and 2023.

So-Cal Chef Open guests will enjoy tapas-style tastings, a wine auction, beer, and spirit samples. Live music will set the mood for the popular event. For further information, including ticket prices, access


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