Off the Menu: Pascal’s Personal Chef Battle, Women Chefs in Newport

Share this:
Chef Pascal at Cafe Jardin

Chef Pascal Olhats, who currently runs Café Jardin in Corona del Mar as well as Pascal Restaurant in San Juan Capistrano (and once had several other restaurants in Newport Beach) has won many chef battles over the years, but his latest battle is against a tough opponent.

This week, Chef Pascal sent a letter to his devout friends and patrons:

 “It is with great sadness that I am announcing the upcoming closing of Pascal Restaurant in San Juan Capistrano on March 30. It has been an amazing and successful five years at this great location.

I have decided to take a break and slow down in my business life. Some of you may already know that I have been dealing with health issues (T-cell lymphoma), and this may be a warning signal. I may have to go fishing or smell the roses more often!

However, I am not retiring yet. I am still fully involved at the Sherman Gardens location, Cafe Jardin, in Corona del Mar. Once Pascal closes, I am planning to serve some of Pascal favorite dishes on the lunch menu there, as well as having special dinners. Other dining options are also in the planning stages. Pascal Catering will still be operating and taking care of the special events at the Gardens.

I am personally still involved at Manassero Farms. as well as teaching French Cuisine at Saddleback College.

A sincere thank you to our faithful patrons for your great support and I hope we will see you in Corona del Mar.

Merci Beaucoup et a Bientot!”

 I called Chef Pascal after he sent the letter, and he said he has ambitious plans, which start with winning his health battle and continue with bringing some of his Pascal Restaurant items to his Cafe Jardin menu.

“I want to spend more time at Café Jardin, do special dinners and cooking demos,” he told me. “I also want to do chef coaching. Chefs can come and talk to me and I can give them information and help on any level—emotional, material, they can pick my brain.”

Chef Pascal also wants to form a “green chef” group that is focused on how they use everything on their restaurants, and how they can pass a green concept on to their customers.”

But for now, Chef Pascal has a couple more medical treatments to endure—in between serving dinner at his Pascal restaurant before it closes.

For more information, visit


Given that March is Women’s History Month, and March 8 is International Women’s Day, I was reminded by associates of Tracy Borkum, owner of Urban Kitchen Group which includes CUCINA enoteca in Newport Beach, of the significant role that women play in the restaurant world, including restaurant owners and executive chefs.

It got me thinking about how many truly terrific female chefs we have in Newport Beach: Kathy Pavlos, chef-owner of Provenance; Deborah Schneider, chef-owner of SOL Cocina; Chef Alejandra Padilla of Five Crowns; Chef Brittany Valles of Oak Grill; Chef Amy Lebrun of Lido Bottle Works; and Chef Jessica Roy of Current Coastal Cuisine at the Renaissance Hotel. If I left anyone out, I apologize for my cluttered memory banks.

By the way, last weekend I sat at Chef Roy’s table for the Table for 10 culinary fundraiser extravaganza, and was blown away by her creative menu. More about that experience next week. 

But back to Tracy Borkum. Her reps reminded me that Borkum is an influential restaurateur, a trailblazer and a strong female voice in a predominantly male-driven industry—although that is changing.

Tracy Borkum

Borkum founded Urban Kitchen Group in 1995, and her collective currently consists of five California-Italian inspired eateries in San Diego and Orange County as well as a full-service catering company and an online retail shop.

“While all of the restaurants under our CUCINA name share a common theme, design, menu and the Urban Kitchen Group ethos, each restaurant is unique to its own location,” Borkum told me. “Whenever we open a new restaurant, we keep in mind that we are also joining a new community and neighborhood, and it’s very important to us to try to cater to the locals as much as possible.”

“Another commonality with all of our restaurants is that they are both equal parts restaurant and wine shop; it’s all a part of our ‘restaurant to retail’ environment. Just about everything within our walls is for sale, from lighting to furnishings and of course, wine! You can come in for dinner, hand-select a bottle of wine from our menu and also grab one from our shop to-go. We tend to focus on wines from America and Europe, with an emphasis on Italian varietals.”

Squash blossoms

As far as a favorite menu item, Borkum noted that “my preference usually leans toward daily specials or seasonal dishes that change often. House favorites are the stuffed squash blossoms, short rib pappardelle and of course the mascarpone polenta boards.”

For more information, visit


The OCWineFest returns to San Juan Capistrano March 9 and 10, bringing top wineries into one location for two days of wine tasting and wine education on the historic grounds of A Stone’s Throw Winery, with many OC-based winemakers, luxe exhibitors and great philanthropic organizations in the mix.

The event is produced in coordination with LAWineFest, and balances fun, exploration and education. There will be wine and beer tastings, food pairings, seminars, and a chance to meet some of the area’s top sommeliers and winemakers. Food will be available for purchase from Cousins Maine Lobster, MAIZ Cocina, Nostimo Greek Mediterranean Cuisine, Slammin’ Sliders and The Poke Hut Food Truck.

OC Wine Fest

There will be games by King Barrel and dancing to the sounds of The Shenanigans Band and Hunting Waldo.

Proceeds from OCWineFest will go to Kids Konnected, the Swanner House Restoration Foundation, and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

 This year OCWineFest will feature over 100 wines and beers, plus seminars revolving around the wine industry.

On Saturday, Newport Beach resident Chad Kearns, owner of Giracci Winery, will talk about food and wine pairings. Kevin Donnelly of the OC Wine Society will talk about home wine making both Saturday and Sunday. Also on Sunday, Mick Wilson of Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula, will talk about the making of a brand.

Tickets for the 2019 OCWineFest are $100 for General Admission and $125 for All Access, (which provides access to the exclusive VIP boutique winery areas). However, NB Indy readers can get 50 percent off any ticket by using the code SHOUT at checkout.

More info at


Share this: