Chef Rosie O'Connor of Provecho Wins Chef Open Again

Chef Rosie O'Connor of Provecho Grill holds up both awards she won at the SoCal Chef Open Monday night. Murrieta 24/7 photos: Daniel ...

Chef Rosie O'Connor of Provecho Grill holds up both awards she won at the SoCal Chef Open Monday night.
Murrieta 24/7 photos: Daniel Millhouse

By Daniel Millhouse

Chef Rosie O'Connor of Provecho Grill in Menifee won the SoCal Chef Open for the second straight year Monday, earning top honors in two categories over 12 other chefs.

The competition, held before a crowd of more than 500 in the Grand Ballroom at Pechanga Casino and Resort in Temecula, raised funds for the athletic program at Oak Grove Center for Education Treatment and the Arts.

Tammy Wilson, the CEO of Oak Grove Center, announced that O’Connor on behalf of Provecho Grill won both the Judge’s Pinnacle Award, chosen by judges who work in the food industry, and the People’s Choice Award, chosen by those in attendance.

The People’s Choice Award was selected by each attendee who received three tickets. Each attendee was able to use these tickets to vote for who they thought were the best chefs of the night by giving each of their favorite chefs anywhere between one to all three of their tickets.

The Pinnacle Award was selected by a panel of judges comprised of Steve Cazel of Food Network’s "Cutthroat Kitchen", Amanda Collelo of Fox’s "Hell’s Kitchen", Xiamora Hall of Lifetime’s "Supermarket Superstar", local columnist John Hunneman, and last year’s winners of the Pinnacle Award, Executive Chef Steve Bearse and Chef Jeff Kirkland.

""I think Rosie brought her A game," Hall said enthusiastically. "The food was one bite, it was delicious, it had lots of flavor. It was like a rollercoaster of food and she was on point every single time."

Cazel added, "It’s a meal in a bite. That’s what we’re looking for and she won it hands down. And I think we made the right choice. The people obviously (thought so) with the People’s Choice Award. When you’re a judge and you're judging food and that happens, it’s a good thing. It feels good, like we made the right choice.”

For O’Connor, this was her second year in a row winning the People’s Choice Award.

"I cook for the people," O’Connor said at the start of the competition. "I understand and love the fact that we have our colleagues judging us and I respect all of them, but the People’s Choice Award is something I’m proud of because that’s who we cook for. A lot of the people here were people who didn’t know us."

After it was announced that O’Connor won both awards, she teared up on stage while surrounded by her Provecho Grill team.

"I’m shocked," she said after stepping off the stage. "I’m truly blessed. It’s very nice to be recognized and appreciated by your peers."

Other chefs in the competition represented food venues that included Anthony’s in Murrieta; Canyon Lake’s The Urban Catering Co.; Fresco’s Trattoria from Bonsall; and Temecula’s Tabu Sushi, Temecula Catering, Leoness Cellars, Heart of the House Catering, The Meritage at Callaway, Trattoria Toscana, Monte De Oro Winery, Journey’s End of Pechanga, and Devilicious. Robin’s Nest Desserts and Catering also provided a wide selection of sweets for those in attendance to enjoy.

The real beneficiary of the event was Oak Grove Center, a nonprofit educational and residential center serving over 200 youth. Oak Grove works with children with a variety of psychological, social, emotional, behavioral, medical, and neurological, mostly attributed to abuse or trauma.

Those in attendance included California State Senator Jeff Stone from the 28th District.

"I’ve been involved with Oak Grove for probably two decades," Stone said when asked about his connection to Oak Grove. "I’ve known Tammy (Oak Grove) the same amount of time. She’s been a strong advocate for Oak Grove and I know what kind of wonderful things they do for kids that have gotten some bad breaks. I’ve seen them turn some lives around and that’s why I’ve been very supportive of their fundraising every single year. Wonderful to see the testimonials that come out of there. They change people’s lives for the better."

"Basically, they do some things that the regular public schools just can’t do," said Menifee City Councilman John Denver, who was also in attendance. "There’s a reason to be here. We should have one in Menifee."

The SoCal Chef Open was held in unison with the Thirteenth Annual Oak Grove Golf Classic, which took place earlier in the day. Combined with a raffle and a live auction that was held before the awards for the chefs were announced, Oak Grove was the beneficiary of all of Monday’s activities.

"It’s such a great program," said Don Murray, president and CEO of Commerce Bank of Temecula Valley. “We have a great leader in Tammy Wilson and we’ll support it (Oak Grove) in any way we can."

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