Get to Know the Chefs at Pacific Wine and Food Classic

Summertime Memories Become Gourmet Dishes at the Pacific Wine and Food Classic


s the weather grows warmer, some of the fondest memories are made during the summer. Whether it’s the feeling of your toes in the sand, the satisfaction of picking exquisitely ripe blackberries or taking a dip in the local swimming hole, there always seems to be excitement in the air.

Those days of sunshine past can also inspire equally delicious food. On August 19-20, the first annual Pacific Wine and Food Classic will be hosted by Food Network Star Simon Majumdar at Newport Dunes Waterfront Resort. The event hopes to capture the essence of summertime, with help from a collection of the region’s best chefs. Foodies will rejoice at this all-inclusive, world-class event, where wine, beer and artisanal cocktails will accompany more than 100 dishes, as well as live music and culinary entertainment.

To get a taste of what’s to come, Sauté Magazine asked several of the chefs about their plans for the festivities and what they will be bringing to the table.

Pacific Wine and Food Classic
Chef Shachi Mehra
Q: What is the dish that you will be creating for the Pacific Wine and Food Classic? Can you walk us through ingredients, process and the finished product?

Shachi Mehra, ADYA:  I will be serving a ‘Grilled Corn Chaat’ — Chaat is a word for appetizers that are multilayered regarding flavor and texture — exciting for your palate, and in Hindi, it also means to lick. Our Corn Chaat starts with char-grilled sweet corn, and we add fresh cilantro, crunchy fennel, summer tomatoes, house-pickled chilies, lime, and our special spice mix.

Katy Smith, Puesto: I am making Squash Blossom Soup.  It is one of my favorite items to make in the summer.  The first thing that you do is make corn stock by using the corn husks and corn cobs and simmering them in water — the corn stock alone is so delicious! Then we caramelize onions in some butter and olive oil, sprinkle them with masa harina, and add the corn stock, epazote and serrano chile. We then bring the soup up to a simmer, and the masa slightly thickens it.  We add summer squash, fresh corn kernels, squash blossoms and roasted poblano chiles and keep them on the fire until the veg are just cooked. We finish with a bit of Mexican crema.

Linda Johnsen, Filomena’s Italian Kitchen: I have decided to do a trio of bruschetta. I’m from the New Jersey/Philadelphia area where fresh summer produce is amazing, so I’m going to do a traditional tomato bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, garlic and basil tossed in very good Extra Virgin Olive Oil, seasoned with salt & pepper and topped with imported Parmesan Cheese.

No east coast summer would be complete without the exceptional fresh corn on the cob. So in addition to the bruschetta, I’m going to slightly sauté corn cut from the cob, bell peppers, celery, onions and garlic then top it onto grilled ciabatta.

My favorite summer fruit is peaches. I’m also going to grill peaches to bring out some of the great sweet flavors and top grilled French baguette crostini with ricotta cheese, honey and grilled peaches.

Ryan Sumner, Lighthouse Bayview Cafe: For the Pacific Wine and Food Classic I’m doing a Hamachi Tataki Dish – a fresh sashimi dish consisting of Charred Hamachi, Smoked Avocado Mousse, Jalapeño Citrus Broth, Black Radish and Cilantro.

Mark McDonald, Old Vine CafeBacon & Sweet Corn Chowder. First I start with a long slow bacon stock, and then finish with a touch of cream and fresh corn. As the chowder is plated, it is garnished with raw sweet corn and crispy bacon.


Pacific Wine and Food Classic
Chef Katy Smith
Q: What summer memory serves as the inspiration for that main dish?

Mehra:  As a young girl, I spent many summers in New Jersey, at the shore, at picnics – eating, drinking, enjoying the sunshine. One thing we always ate was grilled corn – with butter slathered on, with limes dipped in chili and salt. I also have fond memories of eating char-grilled corn on the streets in India – always with lime and spice – so sweet, tangy and spicy!

Smith: I first had a dish similar to this when I started working for Rick Bayless in Chicago.  We made this dish for an annual fundraiser using Three Sisters Gardens Corn, and it was the perfect balance of sweetness from the corn, a bit of heat from the serrano, and the smokiness from the poblanos.

Johnsen: As a child, I don’t ever remember not being told to go outside and pick some tomatoes and fresh basil for my father and grandmother when they were making dinner.  We had a summer home in Brigantine, NJ, and every weekend we would take that Friday night drive down to the Jersey shore.  That required driving through the South Jersey farm land which included peach trees, fields of corn, blueberries, tomatoes and other produce.  To me, nothing is better than the fresh vegetables you grew up with.

Sumner: That feeling of your first trip to the beach in summer, when the weather has just started to heat up, and you sink your feet in the sand and let the waves hit you. With the sand just steps from the Lighthouse, it’s a feeling I get to experience daily! To me, this dish represents the “essence of summer” because it is a light and bright sashimi plate. It will be super refreshing on a hot day with a little kick of heat to make you want to come back for more.

McDonald: Sweet corn was a main ingredient growing up in the Summer time in my household. My parents always cooked at home, and we ate as a family.


Pacific Wine and Food Classic
Chef Linda Johnson
What makes your dish unique (technique, tradition, innovation)?

Mehra: I love creating dishes that allow me to share my Indian heritage with others through food – I grew up with Indian food and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. As I created this dish inspired by memories of India and spices, I wanted to incorporate the bounty of summer in Southern California. We have amazing produce available to us – and just a hint of spice and innovation creates a unique dish that I’m sure everyone will love.

Smith: I think the corn stock may be my favorite part of the dish. It is made with all of the parts of the corn that typically get thrown away, but instead, by finding another use for them, you get this amazing corn stock that can be used in soups and sauces and is perfect for cooking for vegetarians as a substitute for chicken stock.  

Johnsen: I’m Italian, so my techniques are simple. I prefer to use ingredients in their simplest form and let the food speak for itself. I’m most inspired when I can create the food that my grandmother made.  I’m proud of our heritage, and I want to keep her recipes around for a long time.

Sumner: This dish is kind of like a sashimi “shooter,” with two steps. First, dive into the fresh fish with all the garnishes on a skewer; then chase it down with the chilled jalapeño citrus broth. Perfect for a summer day!

McDonald: I think that the bacon changes up the chowder from your traditional corn chowder. By making a rich bacon stock as the base, every bite has an intense smoky bacon flavor balanced out by the sweetness of the corn.


Pacific Wine and Food Classic
Chef Ryan Sumner
Do you notice your cooking changing during the summer – do the seasons affect your style?

Mehra: Absolutely! Southern California has amazing farmers and farmer’s markets. There’s so much incredible produce available, and at its peak, needs just a little touch from spices to highlight its natural flavors. Summer cooking is simplified and, simultaneously, flavors intensified.

Smith: Absolutely.  I eat lighter; I grill more; tend to cook more simply in the summer – grilled chicken or fish and a salad or some type of amazing raw veg. I try to put tomatoes or peaches on anything that I can and enjoy them while they are at their best.

Johnsen: Cooking styles should always change with the seasons. The products available at various times of the year should be utilized to their fullest potential when they are fresh from the earth. Most produce can be reproduced during the entire year in green houses, but a tomato grown in Jersey soil does not have the same flavor as a tomato grown in a plastic bucket.

Sumner: Yes definitely! During the summer season, we have a great variety of beautiful fresh fruits and vegetables unique to the warmer months of the year. I try to create light but flavorful dishes with vinaigrettes and acid compared to winter when I tend to use cream and butter. My motto is: Let the seasonal ingredients speak for themselves and try not to manipulate them so much that they lose their essence.

McDonald: Summer offers so many seasonal ingredients, that it is easy to change things up.


Chef Mark McDonald
Tell us about the restaurant you are representing. What is your history there?

Mehra: We opened the first location of ADYA inside the Anaheim Packing House three years ago – our focus is Indian Street Food. The multitude of bright flavors and textures within Indian food, the fresh produce and access to farmers in Southern California allow us to create dishes that marry tradition with innovation.

Smith: I started working as the Executive Creative Chef of Puesto a little over a year ago. It’s an amazing restaurant. Our goal every day is to throw a party for our guests. We want them to eat well, have a great time, and feel taken care of like you’ve been welcomed into someone’s home. I had been working back East and in the Midwest for the past seven years and was itching to come back out west. Puesto was the perfect reason for me to come back.

Johnsen: I own Filomena’s Italian Kitchen and Filomena’s Italian Market. The restaurant has been open for five years, and we opened the market in January; both are named after my grandmother. Filomena is from the Abruzzio region of Italy and moved to the Philadelphia area when she was very young. The restaurant has been named “One of the Best 75 Places to Eat in OC” for the past three years. We are included as one of the top 10 Best Pizza’s in OC, and I was just recently voted the 2nd Favorite Female Chef in OC by Locale Magazine.  What I am most proud of is our involvement with our local charities.

Sumner: The Lighthouse Bayview Café is a beautiful waterfront restaurant on the Balboa Peninsula at Marina Park boasting unparalleled the views of the harbor. The menu consists of an array of dishes created to enable our guests to come back day after day and always have something different to try. We are a Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Brunch restaurant, with an authentically cozy feel; our signature Lighthouse teal gives the interior a vibe that feels like your favorite vacation home – somewhere that you can relax and enjoy yourself. I have been at the Lighthouse since opening in late 2015 as Executive Chef and truly enjoy creating a space and menu that inspires guests to create special memories whether they are our regular diners taking a daycation or new guests exploring the Lighthouse for the first time.

McDonald: Old Vine Café has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner for over 10 years in the CAMP in Costa Mesa. We take pride in serving the highest quality ingredients in a casual, non-pretentious environment.


What does it mean to you to be a part of the Pacific Wine and Food Classic?

Mehra: I’m excited to be a part of the Pacific Wine and Food Classic – it’s a gathering of Chefs, restaurateurs, and food and wine lovers to celebrate this culinary community and what we accomplish together every day. I’m looking forward to inspiration, creativity and celebrating Southern California.

Smith: It’s an incredible honor. I grew up in Irvine and my family now lives here in Newport – this is my home. I spent years cooking in other cities but coming home and getting to cook here means the world to me.

Johnsen: I enjoy participating and promoting our restaurant at local events. It gives us the opportunity to meet the many great people in our community. I also enjoy having the opportunity meeting the other chefs, there is so much talent in OC, and I’ve created some great friendships because of events such as the Pacific Wine and Food Classic. Plus, I want to support the OC Restaurant Association, its members and staff.

Sumner: I’m so excited to be a part of the very first Pacific Wine and Food Classic! I look forward to working alongside so many talented chefs representing such great southern California restaurants, not to mention the appeal of the whole California beach vibe. It’s going to be a really fun and exciting event; I can’t wait to see you there!

McDonald: I enjoy getting involved in community events that bring people together. The Pacific Food & Wine Classic offers a beautiful setting and a great community of chefs.


The event runs from 2-5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Single day general admission tickets are $150, and two-day general admission tickets are $250. VIP packages area also available.





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