Celebrity Chef Showcase takes the cake as Reality Rally finale

Chefs Rob Burmeister (l.) and Kevin Des Chenes on the steps of Temecula City Hall following Celebrity Chef Showcase. Sterling Anno photos
Chefs Rob Burmeister (l.) and Kevin Des Chenes on the steps of Temecula City Hall following Celebrity Chef Showcase. Sterling Anno photos

Reality Rally festivities concluded with the Celebrity Chef Showcase to a crowd of over 100 fans. The production was captured by live artist Lisa Owen-Lynch, while spectators gathered to view reality television’s favorite chef personalities—from “Hell’s Kitchen” to “Cupcake Wars”—in a sudden-death competition.

“Last year’s Chef Showcase, won by Temecula local Amanda Colello and Amanda Giblin, was such a hit, we wanted all of Temecula to come to enjoy our chefs,” said Gillian Larson, Reality Rally founder. Complete with secret ingredients and mystery utensils, the cook-off captivated the crowd under the growing twilight.

Chefs Andrea and Corie Maue celebrate following announcement of winning their heat.
Chefs Andrea and Corie Maue celebrate following announcement of winning their heat.

City hall was alight with stars and stripes, while a large screen telecast enabled all present to view the art of creation in under 15 minutes flat. Judges included area notables as Mayor Jeff Comerchero, and were encouraged to vote on style, flavor, and presentation—both on the plate and in the kitchen.

The first heat tasked contestants to prepare an appetizer, and paired Xiomara Hall, of “Supermarket Superstar,” with Dara Yu of “Master Chef Junior, Season 1.” Rob Burmeister of “Cutthroat Kitchen” was joined with Kevin Des Chenes, “Chef Wanted.” Colello of “Hell’s Kitchen, Season 9,” worked with Dan Ryan “Hell’s Kitchen, Season 11.”

Each table was dressed with a George Foreman Grill, a toaster oven, and a set of sharp knives, and culinary know-how. Chef Works provided embroidered chef jackets, while E.A.T. Marketplace, Old Town Spice Merchant, Temecula Olive Oil Company, Cook Farms, and many small organic growers represented by Temecula’s Farmer’s Market provided the ingredients.

The challenge was designed in three heats, focused around creation of an appetizer, a salad, and a late night snack. First heat ingredients ran the gamut from pork jowls, kale, and the cherimoya fruit. Sounds of fast chopping, sizzling, and chef’s kitchen banter ruled the stage during the heat.

“I’m having a blast,” said Hall, a Southwest Riverside County local as she worked in tandem with Yu. Stars did their best to combine ingredients and entertain during the cooking challenge.

Though grill issues abounded, Colello and Ryan stated their appetizer was “thrown together with love and shame.” Hall and Yu designed a flavorful garlic, lemon infused, Thai spiced grilled pork jowl taco.

Des Chenes and Burmeister won the winning dish for the first heat, serving up “street taco” style tender pork, topped with kale and cherimoya chimichurri sauce, and julienned cherimoya for added crunch.

Emcee work was handily carried out by Kristine Turner of Q103.3 radio, and color commentary by Leah Di Bernardo of E.A.T. Marketplace, while chefs worked at a frantic pace with limited resources.

“The competition was intense,” stated second heat chef Corie Maue of Murrieta. Paired with sister-in-law Andrea Maue, it was “Cupcake Wars” all over again as Burmeister took the mike and added color to each preparation of the second heat’s salad offerings.

“The Maue girls are gonna frost a salad now,” Burmeister teased as Andrea worked and Corie grated. Must-use ingredients of duck, celery root, and beet greens were provided for this heat. Andrea added pomegranate olive oil from the Temecula Olive Oil Company for a secret ingredient of her own, as well as blueberries from local growers.

Chefs Kevin Des Chenes and Rob Burmeister learn they have won the 2015 Celebrity Chef Showcase at Reality Rally, 2015
Chefs Kevin Des Chenes and Rob Burmeister learn they have won the 2015 Celebrity Chef Showcase at Reality Rally, 2015

“Makin’ a little duck salad,” Corie sang while grating celery root over the plate.

Meanwhile, chefs Richard Mancini of “Chef Wanted” and “Hell’s Kitchen Season 12” worked his magic with “Master Chef Junior Season 1” Troy Glass. 2014 Chef Showcase winner, Giblin of “Hell’s Kitchen Season 11” paired with Ashley Sherman of “Hell’s Kitchen Season 13” to work out their own version of the meal. Andrea and Corie won the second heat, and their right to compete in the final vote off.

The third heat paired Eddie Canlon of “Chopped” with Elise Mayfield of “Master Chef Season 5.” Sandra Flores of “Hell’s Kitchen 12” paired with Steve Cazel of “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Barret Beyer of “Hell’s Kitchen 11” paired with Frank Bilotti of “Hell’s Kitchen 13” in a battle for the Late Night Snack.

With secret ingredients of ground beef, loquats, and taro root, chefs Flores and Cazel worked out a strip burger with sass and class. What is a taro root?

“It’s, you know, a root vegetable,” Flores said with a flair of her must-use “Cappuccino Froth-er.”

Canlon and Mayfield worked their ingredients into caper, taro root meatball, with caper loquat sauce. In the background, Beyer and Bilotti worked in “Hell’s Kitchen” intensity as they prepared late night “low sodium” meatballs over a bed of greens. Old Town Spice Merchant’s turmeric added zip to their meatball and taro root chutney. Beyer and Bilotti won the third heat, and votes were sent for tallying.

With temperatures dropping, the audience lauded the performances with such feedback of “we’re hungry!” and “who knew cooking could be this exciting?”

Banter and fun took a more serious tone as Larson and others took the stage during the vote tally, reminding everyone once again of the “why” behind Reality Rally.

Sandra Flores shares from the heart, discussing her personal battle with stage-4 breast cancer after the Celebrity Chef Showcase, Reality Rally, 2015.  Photo by Monica Kirkland
Sandra Flores shares from the heart, discussing her personal battle with stage-4 breast cancer after the Celebrity Chef Showcase, Reality Rally, 2015. Photo by Monica Kirkland

“We couldn’t put on this event to raise money for Michelle’s Place without the many volunteers who make it happen,” Larson said.

Chef Sandra Flores remembrances rose once again to the stage, describing her personal battle with stage four breast cancer, a double mastectomy, and the removal of 30 lymph nodes. A year later, Flores has finished her six months of daily chemotherapy prior to Reality Rally. “

“I had to come. I had to be here,” Flores said to the audience in an emotional speech. “I want to see a place like Michelle’s Place built in New York.”

The chefs banded together around Gillian to hear the results from the night, with Burmeister and Des Chenes winning with their street tacos.

“The Reality Rally Chef Showcase was fantastic this year,” Burmeister said, citing last year’s “waffle-cado” debacle with a New York guffaw. “Thank you to all who made this event possible. Michelle’s Place is lucky to have such a hard working team at Reality Rally behind them. Pork Cheek Street Tacos rule the roost in Temecula!”

For more information on Reality Rally, visit www.RealityRally.com.

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