The debate for the best food capital in the world is never-ending. New York, San Francisco and Paris are just among a few of the cities foodies flock to in search of the next best thing. However, once a year in March, the superstars of each city’s’ food scene come together to participate in one of Los Angeles’s biggest culinary events–the All Star Chef Classic. Since its conception a few years ago, the All Star Chef Classic has become a star-studded affair, bringing in award-winning, Michelin-star chefs from all over the world.
This year, from March 9th through 12th, the All-Star Chef Classic took place at the L.A Live in Downtown Los Angeles. A true celebration of all things food, this four-day feast was packed with world-class dinners hosted inside the incredible custom-made Restaurant Stadium and Chefs’ Tasting Arena. For those who prefer to do a little walking as they eat, there were also strolling events such as the all-new Global Grand Tasting and the annual Grill and Chill. Headlining names in this star-studded lineup included Aarón Sánchez of Johnny Sanchez, Jenn Louis of Lincoln and much more.
Some of us were fortunate to attend a couple of these events, which we’ll be covering in today’s story. The Global Grand Tasting, presented by yours truly, Melissa’s Produce, was an outdoor event that highlighted tastings from over twenty different internationally renowned chefs. Hometown heroes from Los Angeles as well as masters from New York, New Orleans and even Peru displayed their culinary expertise in sampling their many delicious creations from around the world. At our booth, we featured a healthy and delicious Turmeric Infused Confetti Quinoa Salad as well as our lineup of Steamed Items, Clean Snax and more.
David Lefevre of the creative, artisan hotspot Manhattan Beach Post plated a crispy Korean Honey and Sesame Charred Pork Belly on top of red cabbage, Asian pear, micro greens and puffed Forbidden Rice. Always a popular choice at food festivals, pork belly is the perfect way to kick off a culinary smorgasbord.
As we covered in one of our latest stories, Eating Everyday Asian with Melissa’s, Filipino cuisine is stealing the spotlight in the culinary scene. And headlining its popularity is none other than Charles Olalia who opened casual bowl-based eatery Ricebar last year. At tonight’s tasting, he featured a Pork Longanisa, which is a Filipino sweet pork sausage, with pickled papaya and garlic rice suman. If you couldn’t get enough of this savory combination here at the Global Grand Tasting, you’ll be happy to hear that he offers it as his restaurant as well.
Although he runs not one but three Los Angeles-based restaurants, Lukshon and Father’s Office in both Santa Monica and Culver City, chef and restauranteur Sang Yoon was hard at work showcasing a bite-sized Tom Kah Gai Custard which was chock full of fresh herbs and a little bit of jalapeno and wait for it…frozen lime cells! This tasting was truly a delectable and memorable play on textures and flavors.
A true master of butchery, Chef Chris Cosentino of San Francisco-based restaurant Cockscomb took one of the finest cuts of meats you’ll find in the world and transformed it into his Iberico De Bellota Tartare. This exquisite creation was not only dressed with hazelnuts, scallions but also featured a highly coveted citrus favorite: Meyer Lemons. Don’t be too surprised when you see this culinary gem pop up in other tastings throughout the weekend!
Cosentino was not the only one working with Meyer Lemons that night. Anita Lo of the longstanding first-class, New York-based eatery Annisa demonstrated her unique style with a sampling of Alaskan King Crab with Meyer lemon, sunchokes, spinach and clap pepper.
Of course, we couldn’t come to this event without making our way over to Chef Josef Centeno’s booth for the Savory Panna Cotta with pickled vegetables. Known for his prowess in Spanish-fusion flair at Baco Mercat, Centeno spotlighted big flavors and unique textures into small plates.
Spotted: Melissa’s Red Muscato Grapes making an appearance on La Bottega Di Belgioioso‘s fabulous cheese plate! After all, fruit and cheese is a classic pairing and what better way to end the night than with free-flowing wine and a taste of plump, juicy grapes and sharp, earthy Gorgonzola?
Source: All Star Chef Classic
Closing the All Star Chef Classic was another popular strolling event: the Grill and Chill. Held for the 3rd year in a row since its conception, the Grill and Chill is a much-loved fan favorite that celebrates all things grilled and of course, chilled. A dynamic international outdoor cookout, some chefs highlighted their expertise over an open flame while others worked with cold bites and desserts. The roster featured an equally impressive lineup as its previous night such as Zack Pollack of Alimento, Jamie Bissonnette of Toro and much more.
Melissa’s Produce was in attendance for another night and was plating Honey Sriracha Brussels Sprouts and Roasted Dutch Yellow Potato Salad. With this delightful pairing of hot and cold, savory and refreshing, what could be more fitting for the an affair like the Grill and Chill?
When there’s grilling taking place, you know pork belly is sure to be found. South Carolina-based Sean Brock of Husk showcased his Southern roots with a plating of Cheerwine Glazed Pork Belly. Although a unique combination, you’d be amazed at how wonderful cherry soda is for flavoring pork. Sandwiched between a pillowy benne roll with pickled onion and cucumber and finished with smoked dukes mayo, this memorable dish was one of our favorites of the night.
A favorite star chef from last year’s All Star Chef Classic, Jenn Louis of Portland’s Lincoln never disappoints and served a dish that was equally as gorgeous as it was delicious. Vibrant, earthy beet hummus layered on top of creamy labneh with Israeli dukkah and finished off with cauliflower, what’s not to love?
The words “Bean Salad” may not sound too exciting but don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this dish’s name. Hailing all the way from one of the most inspiring food capitals of the world, Chef Inaki Aizpitarte of Paris’s Le Chateaubriand showcased the full caliber of his talent in this flavor-packed bowl. Browned butter gave this bean medley a rich nuttiness while Meyer Lemon juice and herbs gave it an unforgettable brightness and aroma.
If you’ve never had Fregola Sarda, then the Grill and Chill was the perfect spot to get hooked onto this seminola pasta. More similar to Israeli couscous, Fregola Sarda gives off a toasted, nutty flavor and unique texture. Chef Carrie Nahabedian of Chicago hotspot NAHA served hers with ricotta cheese, spring asparagus, candied Buddha’s Hand, cured tomatoes, sweet basil and finished it off with a vanilla bean scented vinaigrette.
Some may argue that dessert is the best part of any dish. When it comes to the Pineapple Coconut Meringue Torte at Johnny Izzunni‘s Sugur and Fueled, Inc., we may have to agree. Grilled South African Baby Pineapple with all of its caramelized juices layered with cream inside an airy, crispy coconut meringue, this was what we’d imagine paradise to taste like.
All of us at Melissa’s Produce would like to thank all who attended and made the All-Star Chef Classic another successful year. We’d also like to express our immense gratitude to all the chefs and their teams for showcasing their trendsetting dishes. We look forward to another great event next year!
Did you attend any of the All-Star Chef Classic events this year? Which were your most memorable dishes? Which chefs’ platings were your favorites?