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The chefs donate their time. The $30 of the price that doesn’t go for scholarships pays for purchased ingredients, waitstaff, dishwashers, laundry, etc. — the normal costs of the restaurant business. The event is so prestigious that most of the top toques in town are eager to be chosen and are crestfallen if they’re not. This year, the Celebration has been reduced to just once a week, but in the future it may expand again, possibly to a semiannual event with spring and fall sessions. “When we did it twice a week, there were such good chefs and teams and menus, not everybody could get to them all,” says Rossman. “We actually had complaints where people said there were just too many. So this year we scaled back to do just five [dinners]. There are always a lot of problems with the details that go into this. We start planning it back in April, and we try to meet once a month. The other problem is that itrun by chefs, and we don’t have a whole lot of free time for marketing and so forth. It’s a difficult undertaking.”

The value of the Celebration sometimes only reveals itself in hindsight. Indirectly, one Celebration helped sow the seeds for a quiet revolution in San Diego dining that we’ve almost come to take for granted: In 2002, Moore and colleague Deborah Schneider (now head of food operations at the Del Mar Racetrack) focused the event on bringing together San Diego chefs with local North County farms growing organic or sustainably raised produce. Many of the top chefs were already trekking to Chino Farms, or to local farmers’ markets, of course, but at the next level down, too many eateries were still immune to the California Cuisine revolution of the 1970s. They remained completely in thrall to Sysco, the giant restaurant-supply company, and the results of that dependency contributed to San Diego’s well-deserved reputation as a culinary backwater. The farm-to-table Celebration seemed to be a genuine consciousness-raising event, a turning point in spreading Bay Area–style fine ingredients and locavore cuisine much more widely and deeply. Today, instead of finding the dire, flavorless “Sysco Veggie Medley” on nearly every plate, we find the names of Crow’s Pass, Connelly Farms, Valdivia Farms, et al. on the menus and enjoy the vibrant tastes of real, fresh food.

2008 Chef Celebration Schedule

Wednesday, October 1: Terra 619-293-7088, terrasd.com

1270 Cleveland Ave., ste. K, San Diego CA 92103

  • Jeff Rossman, Terra Restaurant
  • Colin MacLaggan, Avenue 5
  • Victor Jimenez, Cowboy Star
  • Joe Magnanelli, Laurel
  • Chris Walsh, Bite

MENU

AMUSE

Basil Flan, shallot rings, curry oil (Jeff Rossman)

FIRST COURSE

Restyled caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes, opal basil vinaigrette, and balsamic gelée (Chris Walsh)

SECOND COURSE

Marinated hiramasa, tempura Dungeness crab, bamboo rice, green curry (Joe Magnanelli)

THIRD COURSE

Duck confit and foie gras tortellini, bitter greens, brandy cherries, candied pecans, English Stilton, port reduction (Colin MacLaggan)

MAIN COURSE

Dry-aged beef strip loin, oxtail ravioli, wilted greens, Bordelaise sauce (Victor Jimenez)

DESSERT DUET

Quince tarte tatin, butternut squash ice cream (Jeff Rossman)

Gorgonzola cheesecake with grilled figs and zinfandel-Tellicherry peppercorn syrup (Chris Walsh)

Tuesday, October 7: Bernard’O 858-487-7171, bernardorestaurant.com

12457 Rancho Bernardo Road, San Diego CA 92128

  • Patrick Ponsaty, Bernard’O
  • Vincent Grumel, Vincent’s Sireno
  • Steven Rojas, El Bizcocho
  • Jonathan Freyberg, Bernard’O
  • Loïc Laffargue, Barona Resort & Casino

MENU

FIRST COURSE

Kumamoto oyster and Santa Barbara sea urchin, passion fruit, orange-blossom water, compressed cucumber (Steven Rojas)

SECOND COURSE

Blackened scallop with candied orange, micro-green salad (Vincent Grumel)

MAIN COURSE

Pheasant sous vide stuffed with foie gras, cardamom, and chestnut mousse, black trumpet mushroom, pheasant reduction (Patrick Ponsaty)

CHEESE COURSE

“Black Butterfly” Roquefort bleu cheese, sauterne aspic, walnut bread, honeycomb (Jonathan Freyberg)

PRE-DESSERT

Green apple/lemon sorbet, lemon confit, apple and lemon chips

DESSERT

Croustillant chocolate, confiture de lait; Flourless cake, chocolate crispy, milk jam ice cream, caramel fleur de sel, gianduja chantilly (Loïc Laffargue)

MIGNARDISES

Small sweets

Tuesday, October 14:
Pamplemousse Grille
858-792-9090, pgrille.com

514 Via de la Valle, Solana Beach CA 92075

  • Brian Malarkey, Oceanaire Seafood Room
  • Tommy DiMella, Pamplemousse
  • Ryan Harris, Pamplemousse
  • Paul McCabe, J. Taylor’s L’Auberge Del Mar
  • Jim Phillips, Barona Resort and Casino

MENU

AMUSE

Fall heirloom compressed squash, Julian apple pearls, bacon

FIRST COURSE

Bouquet of local lettuces, warm Cabrales vinaigrette
Or
Duck schnitzel, pear-apple chutney, duck confit ravioli, saba reduction

SECOND COURSE

Abalone with ginger, garlic and brown butter
Or
Corn agnolotti, Maine lobster, chanterelles, and tangerine

MAIN COURSE

Prosciutto-wrapped Boston scallops, black Mission fig, balsamic syrup
Or
Loin of lamb, braised shoulder, sweet-potato tart
Or
Dry-aged New York, natural braised short rib, manchego
croquette, black trumpet mushrooms, truffle braising jus

TRIPLE DESSERT

Vanilla bean panna cotta, bittersweet chocolate-orange cake, passion fruit sabayon

Tuesday, October 21: Trattoria Acqua, 858-454-0709, trattoriaacqua.com

1298 Prospect Street, La Jolla CA 92037

  • Damaso Lee, Trattoria Acqua
  • Tony DiSalvo, Jack’s La Jolla
  • Jason Knibb, Nine-Ten
  • Orion Balliet, Azul La Jolla
  • Amy DiBiase, Roseville

(Check Chef Celebration website or restaurant website for menu)

Tuesday, October 28: Thee Bungalow 619-224-2884, theebungalow.com

4996 West Pt. Loma Blvd., San Diego CA 92107

  • Paul Niles, Thee Bungalow
  • Danny Bannister, Red Marlin
  • Brian Freerksen, Baleen
  • Dave Warner, JRDN
  • Juan Flores, the Third Corner

(Check Chef Celebration or restaurant website for menu)

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