Off the Menu OC

Covering the dining scene in and around the OC

Culinary Battle at OC Fair – Chef Pascal Olhats (Brasserie Pascal) vrs Chef Paul Cao (Burnt Truck)

I’m a fan of OC’s celebrity chef Pascal Olhats (Brasserie Pascal, Pascal’s Epicerie, etc), and I love food truck cuisine, so when I learned that Chef Pascal was scheduled to go man to man – make that pan to pan – with Burnt Truck Chef Paul Cao at the OC Fair in a culinary battle that was billed as a cross between the Food Network’s “Chopped” and “Iron Chef,” I knew I had to be there.

My assistant, Catherine, and I arrived at the OC Fair’s Exhibit Promenade to find a large stage complete with two min-kitchens, and both teams preparing to wage culinary war. 

A basket containing secret ingredients was brought on stage, and when the basket was uncovered and the ingredients – cremini mushrooms, ground turkey and plantains – revealed, the 30-minute battle began.


Olhats told the audience he was creating a curry-flavored turkey patty served over plantain risotto. Instead of using mushrooms and bacon in the patties, he sauteed the ingredients and piled them on top. Olhats injected the entrée with a Dijon beurre blance glaze to show his famous French flair, and finished off his dish with a side of cognac gazpacho to cleanse the pallet.


 In the other kitchen, Chef Paul – also a classically trained chef – prepared a turkey meatloaf with Asian influences.

 It was a treat to watch these culinary pros do what they do best–work their magic in the kitchen. Pascal and his assistant, Savannah Chop House chef Chris Tzorin, appeared to be having a great time in the spotlight, dancing and laughing as they worked.

His biggest challenge of the day? The tiny propane burners.


“I spilled some sauce, as I could not secure my pan properly. And one of my towels caught on fire, but that’s nothing new!” Olhats said.

 In the end, the judges were most impressed by the taste, presentation, and execution of Olhats’ turkey patties. Olhats and Tzorin received bragging rights and a blue ribbon award to commemorate their culinary victory. Olhats considered this a well-earned win since plantains and ground turkey aren’t the typical ingredients he uses to prepare his French cuisine.


“I had a plan to do some kind of risotto with potatoes,” Pascal told me later. “When I saw the plantains – which I’ve never cooked with before – I said why not dice them and cook them with shallots and cream. I used some feta from the pantry to give it a nice smooth texture. I also rarely use ground turkey so I thought at first to mix it with the bacon and the mushroom, but if I had done that it would have been a flat presentation on the plate, so I gave it a third dimension by using those last two as a topping.”

                                   (Three judges with Chef Paul and Chef Pascal)

“Pascal didn’t even break a sweat while he was on stage except for maybe when he caught his towel on fire,” said Catherine, laughing. “It was amazing to watch him go through his creative process.”

 It was indeed,” I agreed. “He looked cool, calm, and in charge. That’s why he’s my favorite chef.”

 “Do we have time to stop by his Epicerie on the way back to the office?” asked Catherine. “I’m craving one of his macarons.”

 “Me too. Hey, maybe Pascal should enter his macarons in the fair’s baking contest next year. I bet he’d get another blue ribbon.”  

Thanks for reading! 

For more dining adventures, check out Off the Menu OC on Facebook and Twitter!Christopher Trela

3rd Place Best Food Blog / OC Press Club Journalism Awards

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This entry was posted on August 11, 2012 by in Foodie Event and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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