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 18-19, the second annual Pacific Wine and Food Classic will be held 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.

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

Alejandra Padilla, Five Crowns & SideDoor.

Alejandra Padilla, Executive Chef, Five Crowns & SideDoor: We will be preparing a sampling of cheeses hand selected from boutique creameries. At SideDoor we have become known for our amazing cheese program where we showcase a select portfolio of artisanal cheeses from various boutique creameries the third Wednesday of each month. The featured cheeses then find their way into select SideDoor menu items for that evening only. For Pacific Wine and Food Classic, we wanted to bring that experience to guests and offer a taste of the quality cheeses that we offer at SideDoor.

Rich Mead, Owner & Executive Chef, Farmhouse: We will be making a slow roasted Alaskan salmon rubbed with our barbecue spice and served chilled. With it, we pair a salad made of grilled corn and peaches, red onions and cherry tomatoes tossed with julienned anise hyssop – an herb we discovered from our friends at Coleman Family Farms — Abruzzi rye grain from the Tehachapi Heritage Grain Project, honey lime vinaigrette and a green goddess dressing. Right now peaches are really beautiful, the corn is sweet, and tomato season is in full swing – the creaminess of the green goddess pulls everything together.

Bill Drexel, Grasslands: We will be serving our signature BBQ Rib Tips. Rib tips are the meat found at the top of the spare ribs. We brine them in a mixture of salt, sugar, vinegar, herbs and onions for 24 hours, then rub them down with our special BBQ seasoning before marinating for an additional 24 hours. Then, they are smoked with apple wood for 4 ½ hours and basted with the natural meat juice. Finally, they are finished on a wood-fired broiler.

Craig Brady, Executive Chef, Haven Gastropub: I will be presenting Ora King Salmon Belly with Pickled Peach Chorizo and Saffron Aioli at this year’s event. The salmon is lightly sous vide so that it’s barely cooked to accentuate the sashimi-grade fish. The result is a buttery salmon that is perfect on a summer day!

Q: What summer memory serves as the inspiration for that main dish?

Rich Mead, Farmhouse. Photography by John Gilhooley.

Alejandra Padilla, Executive Chef, Five Crowns & SideDoor: When I think about summer, the memories that always come to mind are of outdoor parties with friends and family, and to me, cheese is the perfect party food – it’s easily shared and can be paired with a variety of items to please any palate.

Rich Mead, Owner & Executive Chef, Farmhouse: We’ve had a lot of hot days this summer, so we created our dish keeping in mind our recent hot and humid weather and the seasonal produce available from our farmer friends. We wanted to make something cooling with lots of flavors. We did a cooking demo the other day and created a dish we really liked – we tweaked the dish a little and came up with something we were really happy with.

Bill Drexel, Grasslands: I grew up in Ft. Worth, Texas, and have fond memories of summer weekends that consisted of barbecue block parties with the neighborhood. We were always seen as the “interesting” family at these barbecues since Texans are partial to brisket and we loved to cook pork ribs and rib tips. 

Craig Brady, Executive Chef, Haven Gastropub: Barbecuing was how I started to cook as a child, and one of the first things I grilled was salmon. Summertime also reminds me of fresh-water fishing in Idaho with my father, so there’s a lot of nostalgia associated with this dish.

What makes your dish unique (technique, tradition, innovation)?

Bill Drexel, Grasslands

Alejandra Padilla, Executive Chef, Five Crowns & SideDoor: There is a lot of research that goes into selecting the perfect cheeses that represent SideDoor. Our resident cheesemonger, Tracy Nelson has put a lot of thought into tracking down the perfect cheeses to serve to our guests that are tailored to the season and occasion. For instance, at Pacific Wine and Food Classic it will be a warm summer day so we need to be sure the cheese selected stands up to the heat but is still light enough to pair well with the chilled wines served in the Summer Wine Garden – where you will find our SideDoor booth on Saturday, August 18.

Rich Mead, Owner & Executive Chef, Farmhouse: While this is, in essence, a very simple dish, the slow roasting of the salmon on a rack over water keeps it moist. The summer veggies, especially the anise hyssop, give it great texture and flavor.

Bill Drexel, Grasslands: Over 48 hours of preparation and love go into every batch of rib tips. Then our unique enclosed smoking ovens capture the smoke and natural juice that keeps the tips moist and flavorful.

Craig Brady, Executive Chef, Haven Gastropub: The fish is sous vide, which is an older French technique. I incorporate seasonal peaches, which are not commonly seen with fish, and bring in global flavors, like chorizo, to help guests understand that pork and fish are a match made in heaven. It’s an unlikely combination, but fish tends to lack the unctuous quality that pork can lend to a dish. I like the punch that the pork flavor adds to a mild fish dish.

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

Craig Brady, Haven Gastropub

Alejandra Padilla, Executive Chef, Five Crowns & SideDoor: I started as Executive Chef of Five Crowns and SideDoor in the fall of 2017. Five Crowns has so much history in Orange County as it first opened its doors in 1965. SideDoor is our English-style gastropub located within Five Crowns that opened in 2010. I’m honored to be continuing the tradition of Five Crowns classic dishes and love the creative outlet that SideDoor gives me. At SideDoor, the menu is constantly changing; every day I look forward to finding new ways to highlight the season’s freshest flavors.

Rich Mead, Owner & Executive Chef, Farmhouse: I am the Owner and Executive Chef of Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens, and this dish is very representative of Farmhouse food – it’s ingredient-driven, inspired by our farmer friends, has nice flavors and uses the freshest product. Served in a unique environment at Roger’s Gardens, a nursery in the middle of Corona del Mar.

Bill Drexel, Grasslands: Grasslands is a cut above everything you’ve ever known about meat. A place for the cuisine-curious, where pitmasters and butchers swap knives and share counters. Where meat preparation techniques from the farthest corners of the world shake hands with all manners of smoking, ‘cueing, and roasting. We are the kind of place where you don’t choose the meat, the meat seduces you and then is expertly prepared by artisans of carnivore culture.

Craig Brady, Executive Chef, Haven Gastropub: I’m the Executive Chef at Haven — I’ve been lightening up the menu by integrating more seasonal elements, adding vegetable-focused dishes, being more creative with how ingredients are prepared, and focusing on local farms to be as California-centric as possible and exploit the rich bounty we have locally!

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

Alejandra Padilla, Executive Chef, Five Crowns & SideDoor: I’m so excited to be a part of the second annual Pacific Wine and Food Classic. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer day than representing an incredible restaurant at an event that celebrates Orange County’s talented chef’s and growing foodie culture – did I mention the event is on a beach?! I can’t wait to see you all there!

Rich Mead, Owner & Executive Chef, Farmhouse: Very happy to be part of Pacific Wine and Food Festival helping promote our food culture in Orange County, and more importantly helping raise money and awareness for the Golden Rule Charity – helping people in need in our industry.

Bill Drexel, Grasslands: Pacific Wine & Food Classic provides us another great outlet to continue sharing our delicious BBQ with the masses, while also sharing my love for “meatology” and what makes Grasslands Meat Market so unique in its offerings. 

Craig Brady, Executive Chef, Haven Gastropub: It’s a top-tier event that brings together the best local chefs and restaurants. The Orange County culinary community is so diverse, and it’s nice to be able to greet the public side-by-side with my fellow chefs and offer a taste of what drives my passion and gets me excited in the kitchen.

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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