Royal Hawaiian’s executive chef James Harris claimed the trophy “Champion Chef of Orange County” last Sunday, Aug. 21, in the Sunday Night Chef Fights at a showroom in Huntington Beach.
The local culinary match similar to cooking competition shows on television pitted the Laguna Beach’s restaurant’s chef against Nicola Bellazzi of Enne Cucina in San Clemente. Their challenge was to plan dishes using mushrooms, shrimp, and brown bread on an allowance and in a week’s time for the 60 members of the audience jury. On Sunday, each chef was given 30 minutes to cook and finish samples of each dish for the entire audience as well as incorporate the “mystery ingredient,” which was cinnamon, as host Chris Kern peppered them with questions.
Harris tied on his apron in the Royal Hawaiian kitchen beginning in February. The winning menu: an amuse bouche mai tai cocktail spiked with cinnamon-infused rum; wild mushroom bruschetta of chanterelle, oyster, and maitake mushrooms dusted with thyme and pecorino cheese; New Caledonian blue prawns in a rub, finished with pickled vegetable Ponzu sauce and soba noodles; and cinnamon-scented wheat and macerated mango bread pudding.
Bellazzi took the creativity category, while Harris won the appearance and taste categories.
Harris will return to defend his title Nov. 6, facing off against an as yet unidentified challenger chef.