Off the Menu: Golden Chefs, Gin & Cigars

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Chef Andrew Gruel of Slapfish
Chef Andrew Gruel of Slapfish

By Christopher Trela & Catherine Del Casale | NB Indy


Orange County boasts many great chefs, but only a handful have been honored with a Golden Foodie Award by the OC Restaurant Association.

That’s why we’re fans of the Golden Chef Series, which brings many past Golden Foodie Award winners to the new Sub-Zero and Wolf showroom in Costa Mesa for a series of cooking demos leading up to the 4th annual Golden Foodie Awards, held this fall in Newport Beach.

Last month, Chefs Andrew Gruel of Slapfish and Alexander Dale of Sealegs Wine Bar kicked off the Golden Chef series in Sub Zero and Wolf’s beautiful new showroom kitchen, which is roomy and comfortable enough for several dozen people to sit and watch master chefs at work.

The next Golden Chef demo is May 19, and features Chef Michael Schepers of Mick’s Karma Bar and Chef Rachel Klemek of Blackmarket Bakery, as well as Martin Diedrich of Newport’s own Kean Coffee.

Other chefs in the series include two more locals on June 30: Newport Beach resident and co-founder of Wahoo’s

Chefs Pascal Olhats and Chris Tzorin
Chefs Pascal Olhats and Chris Tzorin

Fish Taco, Wing Lam, and Zov Karamardian of Zov’s Bistro (with a location in Newport Coast).

After that on July 29 is our favorite French Chef, Pascal Olhats, of Pascal’s in San Juan Capistrano and Café Jardin in Corona del Mar, along with his friend and protégé, Chris Tzorin, of Savannah Chop House.

Newport Beach resident Chef Noah Blom of ARC Restaurant (which Christopher says makes the best burger in OC) and his bartender and cocktail master, Koire Rogers, close out the series on August 25.

The demos are 6 to 8 p.m., and include libations and food samples from each chef.

Guests also can enjoy bread by Sadie Rose Baking Company, fresh berries by Melissa’s Produce, Bonbon’s of Gold by Valenza Chocolatier, and cheese by Kerrygold and Cabot. Charlie Plummer is the emcee at each event.

“The Golden Chef Series is one of our most popular events, and always sells out,” said Pamela Waitt, creator and producer of the Golden Foodie Awards and president of the OC Restaurant Association. “This year’s lineup of rising stars and known culinary artists are certain to engage and entertain local foodies who are helping to put Orange County on the map as a culinary epicenter of innovative dining. We’re no longer in the shadows of Los Angeles or San Diego.”

Tickets are $25 to $45 and are available at​

Bartender Tucky Dias
Bartender Tucky Dias


Gin fans (not the card game, the spirit) will rejoice in something we’ve never seen at a restaurant in Newport Beach: a gin dinner!

CUCINA enoteca in Fashion Island is holding a five-course gin pairing dinner on Wednesday, May 27 at 6 p.m.

According to info provided by CUCINA enoteca, diners will gather on CUCINA’s garden-inspired patio, where Lead Bartender Tucky Dias will create five gin-centered cocktails to complement Chef Brent Omeste’s five-course menu that includes Fanny Bay oysters, gin-cured salmon crudo, confit rabbit croquette, lavender honey glazed duck breast, and lemon + lime panna cotta.

CUCINA enoteca patio
CUCINA enoteca patio

Tickets are $95 (including tax & gratuity), and space is limited. Tickets can be purchased online at (click on the Newport Beach location and Happenings).


Cigars and spirits tend to go together—we’ve seen numerous Newport restaurants holding cigar diners and events.

Now, it’s time for one of the biggest local cigar events: the Fifth Annual West Coast Cigar & Spirits Tasting Event, hosted by Cigar & Spirits magazine at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach on Friday, May 22 from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.

More than 500 guests are expected to sample premium cigars and fine spirits, and enjoy live entertainment, appetizers, and more.

Orange County-based Ketel One is the Title Sponsor and exclusive vodka for the event.

Attendees will take home hundreds of dollars-worth of premium samples. Past vendors have included Rocky Patel, Drew Estate, Ventura Cigar Company, La Palina, Falto, Garo Habano, Montecristo, Romeo y Julieta, El Tesoro Anejo, 2 Gingers Irish Whiskey, Buffalo Trace Small Batch Bourbon, Fireball Whisky, Johnnie Walker, Hardy VSOP and XO Cognac, and many others.

Tickets are $75. Visit


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