OC Chef's Table 2017: What The Chefs Are Saying

Showing off the flavorEXPAND
Showing off the flavor
Photo courtesy Illumination Foundation

Last year, we wrote up an annual event that takes place at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel. It's a fundraiser that benefits Illumination Foundation, and chefs throughout Orange County donate their time and resources to make OC Chef's Table a success. We chatted with many of the participating chefs, discussing their thoughts on the event and what they plan to serve guests this weekend. Here's what some of them had to say.

The man at the top of the dumbwaiter.EXPAND
The man at the top of the dumbwaiter.
Photo courtesy 100eats

Hiroki Uchida of The Blind Rabbit

Number of years participating:
This will be the first time Blind Rabbit and I have participated in this event hosted by the Illumination Foundation. We are extremely excited to be a part of this great cause, and hope that our food and participation will bring awareness to its mission and inspire others to make a difference. The Blind Rabbit and I hope to be invited back to this annual event to continue supporting this great foundation.

What prompted you to participate?
I was fortunate to get involved late in the game, and was able to get together with the owners to plan, discuss themes and create a unique and special menu for the guests at our table to enjoy. My favorite aspect of the foundation, and certainly the one that motivated us to participate, is the sheer and genuine care for those less fortunate in our community. To rally and create an enthusiastic foundation in which everyone involved is 100% motivated to devote time and money to those in need is amazing, and we are exited to do the same.

Any thoughts as to what you will be serving?
My menus are always eclectic, in a manner of speaking; I love incorporating different cuisines and aspects of them that are new and unfamiliar to others that I have learned in my experience into my meals. I'm definitely thinking about serving a Kampachi crudo with a serrano plum sauce, and possibly an unctuous pork belly for the main course— but I'll save all the juicy details to surprise our guests at our table.

Your favorite Disney character, Disney food or Disney movie.
My favorite Disney character and movie would have to be Peter Pan. I mean, who wouldn't want to create and live in such an amazing world with the ability to fly? Also, think about food and it appears right in front of you! I love the creativity of that movie, and I often have to completely imagine a dish in my head to be able to turn it into reality, so I definitely relate to that particular Disney movie.

What is the signature dish at The Blind Rabbit?
One of the signature dishes at The Blind Rabbit is the Duck Mac & Cheese. It's salty, crunchy and creamy, everything you could possibly want in a perfect mac and cheese. I plan to assimilate this dish into the menu for the charity dinner to tie in our restaurant, and to introduce the guests to our current offerings in The Packing House in Anaheim.

Ready to go!EXPAND
Ready to go!
Photo courtesy Anchor Hitch

Michael Pham of Anchor Hitch

Number of years participating:
First year participating!

What prompted you to participate?
The sincerity of the cause— the people at Illumination Foundation care about the issue of homelessness and finding solutions deeply, but also the reach they have.

Any thoughts as to what you'll be serving?
We'll cook some simple dishes and some adventurous ones. Diners at our table will feel like they're eating right off the boat. I'll be sourcing the best seafood I can get my hands on and serving it as natural as possible. My plan is to do six to eight courses. My goal will be to share my story with them in just a few chapters.

Your favorite Disney character, Disney food or Disney movie.
It's a tie between Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Woody begins by having leadership among the toys. And when Buzz comes around, he eventually adapted to get him on the team and co-exist. Buzz is a natural-born leader, but also very adventurous. They go together!

If I'm eating at Disneyland, I'm trying to get my hands on a turkey leg, or a bacon-wrapped turkey leg if they have them.

What is the signature dish at Anchor Hitch?
The Uni Pasta is my signature dish, and also the most popular at the restaurant. I was trying to recreate a version of this dish that I had, but to make it my own. In the end, it came down to the traditional approach. I made it a quest to find the best uni I can get my hands on, since the dish revolves around that one ingredient. It goes back to my days watching Iron Chef Japan. One key pairing I thought would be right was eggs with eggs, since uni is considered roe. I paired that with a sous vide egg, and you get an incredibly rich and velvety texture when you break the yolk and spin the pasta around, incorporating the uni into the sauce.

Keep calm and cook with Jeff
Keep calm and cook with Jeff
Photo courtesy EATS Kitchen

Jeff Moore of EATS Kitchen

Number of years participating:
This is my first year participating.

What prompted you to participate?
The Illumination Foundation event brings together the tight knit chef community in Orange County like no other event. To benefit such a great cause is a priority for me and the rest of the chefs involved. I knew a hotel family that was in need, and to be able to help families like them by doing what I'm good at is the best way I can contribute to the foundation and its mission.

Any thoughts as to what you'll be serving?
I'm collaborating with our other chefs from Hotel Irvine for our menu. We all support the cause, and I believe that a team of great chefs working together can produce far superior dishes, instead of me working by myself. We plan to have a diverse menu, in terms of style, ranging from a few classics to a couple of modern, innovative dishes. I'm excited to create this menu, as it's fun to work with our team on this event.

Your favorite Disney character, Disney book or Disney movie.
When I was a kid, Chip 'n' Dale were my favorites. Making Donald Duck upset is all too easy, and they did it with style. Obviously, the corn dog at Disneyland is any chef's favorite, but the Monte Cristo at Cafe Orleans is a close second. I've never been to Club 33— anyone want to take me?

What is the signature dish at EATS Kitchen?
With our new menu almost complete and starting soon, I'm hoping to create a unique signature dish that will set EATS apart from other restaurants in the area and become a destination "gotta have" standout.

Real men wear pinkEXPAND
Real men wear pink
Photo courtesy Twenty Eight

Jay Lacuesta of Twenty Eight

Number of years participating:
This is our first year participating in this event. We are very excited to be involved with such a great cause!

What prompted you to participate?
Twenty Eight has always been committed to helping the community and giving back whenever possible. When we found out the Illumination Foundation helps those in our backyard, we jumped on the opportunity to help.

Any thoughts as to what you'll be serving?
Our dishes will reflect our meat-centric menu. We really hope to "wow" our guests, so we want to keep it hush, hush until the event!

Your favorite Disney character, Disney food or Disney movie:
Cars. I used to live in Palm Springs and would always drive on Route 66 to Vegas for work, so it evokes a sense of nostalgia. It just relates to my personal life more than the other films!

What is the signature dish at Twenty Eight?
Kurobuta Pork Shoulder. It has become our signature dish and a guest favorite. We have folks who will come in multiple times during the week to experience it!

Showing off the flavorEXPAND
Showing off the flavor
Photo courtesy Illumination Foundation

Andrew Gruel of Slapfish

Number of years participating;
This is our second year.

What prompted you to participate?
The cycle of homelessness is scary because of the way it affects an entire family. Not having a sense of place is something most of us can't even imagine. Breaking this cycle with a simple platform of support is the spark many people need to defeat the struggle. Having so many chefs come together to rally around this cause has proven that our collective culinary efforts can not just raise awareness, but good money to drive this mission.

Any thoughts as to what you'll be serving?
Obviously we are going to be serving lobster, but I want to present it as a condiment. I know that sounds silly, but really lobster is best that way. I will source some great local seafood and bump up the volume in each course, from raw to braised— with lobster as the backdrop.

Your favorite Disney character, Disney food or Disney movie.
I am a huge Donald Duck fan; reminds me of myself in the kitchen. I can be cranky and never make sense.
All I do is eat popcorn when I go to Disneyland (and beer at California Adventure).
Favorite Disney movie is Lady and the Tramp. They were the original foodies.

What is the signature dish at Slapfish?
Lobster Schnitzel.

Learn more about OC Chef's Table and Illumination at www.ifhomeless.org.

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