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Chef Lindsay in the dessert round.

Local Chef-Owner’s Chop Delivers a Knockout

Sunday Night Chef Fights was a bout to remember for our local hometown hero Chef Lindsay Smith-Rosales of Nirvana Grille.  Congratulations to Chef Lindsay for taking home the coveted championship on Sunday Night Chef’s Fight in Huntington Beach’s Standard of Excellence showroom and culinary arena.

For the uninitiated, Sunday Night Chef Fights pit local county chefs against each other in culinary brawl with the winner lugging home a trophy and bragging rights as the county’s top chef, at least in some quarters.

Unlike televised food competitions with hand selected celeb judges, Sunday Night Chef Fights embraces the audience as the evening’s arbiters.  For a very reasonable $50 per person, the assemblage of 60 bon vivants sample three different chef inspired dishes with a “specific ingredient” and an additional “secret ingredient” that is revealed to the chefs that morning (six courses total). Dishes are judged by appearance, taste and creativity with a score card placed in front of each judge.  The champ’s fate is in the audience’s hands and at the mercy of their palates.

In addition to sampling the chef’s combative food fest, gourmands enjoy an entertaining evening with master of ceremonies Chris Kern, creator, host and executive producer and founder of Friends of the Forgotten Grape. He matches three types of wines for the oenophile’s tasting pleasure.

Chef Lindsay held her own, sparred well and narrowly defeated contender “Rock’n Roll” chef-owner Phil Knoke of SteerCrazy International BBQ & Catering in San Juan Capistrano. Knoke outscored Lindsay in the taste category (186-184), while she trumped him in the appearance (185-159) and creativity (181-172) categories.

Make no mistake, Chef Lindsay delivered a rock solid right hook to Chef Phil’s jawbone that made him weak in the knees with her entrée of perfectly roasted, herb-encrusted, over-sized lamb lollipops and sun dried tomato couscous. The lamb chops were cooked to a perfect medium-rare and nicely seasoned with fresh herbs.

Albeit tasty, Chef Phil’s Hawaiian style Kalua pulled pork did not stand a chance. Her chops had the opponent quivering under his notorious cowboy hat!

As a starter, Chef Lindsay served a fresh radish and cucumber salad with golden raisins, dates, orange blossom honey, orange zest and secret spices.  I am sure the salad must have started off fresh and crispy, but by the time it was set before me and due to over-dressing of the Indian style yogurt dressing mine was lightly soggy with a mushy texture.

For his appetizer, Chef Phil presented a Hawaiian style cucumber and radish salad.  Simple in flavor, lacking sweetness with a little too much acidity, the salad left a strong vinegar flavor on my tongue.  Chef Phil rose to the occasion with his salad presentation by adding a tiny boiled ginger-brined quail egg which he strategically placed in the center of the bowl surrounded by two chopsticks…very creative.  My final decision was that his dish fared better than his competitor’s radish salad.

Kudos to Chef Phil for his creativity in dessert planning.  Instead of the usual confection, Chef Phil served a hot toddy in a mini brandy snifter with a cinnamon stick garnish.  Job well done with a tasty, traditional hot toddy incorporating honey, the secret ingredient…very creative and warming to my cold bones!

Lastly, the sweet tooths in the crowd must have been satiated with the arrival of Chef Lindsay’s chocolate soufflé.   Although, the soufflé was traditional in appearance, fluffy and puffed up, it lacked the depth of rich chocolate flavor and was a tad on the dry side with a spoonful of honey infused Crème Anglaise coming to the rescue.

In any event, the evening was an opportunity to experience local OC chefs at their finest and taste some otherwise “unknown” varietal wines. What a great concept!

Come out an support Chef Lindsay as she defends her title against Chef Nico from Enne Cucina Italiana of San Clemente on Sunday, May 15, at Standards of Excellence in Huntington Beach.


Read more reviews of Patty Pinto’s blog on

For info of chef matchups: visit

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