May 29, 2014
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They say if you can’t take the heat you should stay out of the kitchen, but the cooks in last week’s Culinary Clash benefit in Pinole stayed put when told the secret ingredient would be habanero peppers.

On May 21, the nonprofit Kitchen@812 hosted its third annual Culinary Clash, a benefit to support the organization’s goal of helping local entrepreneurs launch and develop food-related businesses.

The event, fashioned after the hit Food Network series “Chopped,” pits sponsors of the program – Chevron Richmond, Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Mechanics Bank and US Foods – against each other in a cooking competition. The result was mouth-watering.

Each team included a Kitchen@812 chef, a Jr. Chef from Hercules High School and a guest chef from one of the sponsors.

For a third straight year, PG&E, led by Chef Mike Vizcarra of Tasty Zombies, won this year’s competition. They won the judges over with a sophisticated dish that began with a cucumber citrus gelee to cleanse their palettes, and followed with a sirloin tagliata with pepper coulis, garlic olive oil powder and apple couscous. Afterward, team PG&E treated the judges to a delicious honey semifreddo.


They didn’t win easily. Team US Foods, led by Chef Tara Shaia of Shaia Spice, took second place with a dish that included fiery Moroccan couscous and rice pilaf with marinated beef and vegetable kabobs. The dish was completed with grilled pineapple and a fresh chili/citrus coulis.

Team Chevron, led by Chef Tinisha Johnson of Truly Exquisite Catering, took third with its mushroom couscous with sautéed vegetable chicken sausage, and seared steak drizzled with an orange chili sauce.

And in fourth place was Team Mechanics Bank, led by Chef Vince Khoe of Figticious Catering, which presented a seared spice rubbed beef on quinoa and black bean pancakes with pineapple chili salsa with roasted peppers and onions.

All in all, the event was downright yum.


More than 150 guests of Culinary Clash were entertained with live music, wine-tasting, and delicious bites from Kitchen@812 clients.

“The ultimate victory from this culinary showdown was bringing community together to raise funds for Kitchen@812 and support the dreams and passions of aspiring food entrepreneurs,” the nonprofit said.

Heather Kulp, public affairs manager for Chevron, said she was proud to participate in the Culinary Clash.

“This is my second year participating as a chef and each time it’s not only a blast to cook in a competition, but I also know we are benefiting a great nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs achieve their dreams,” Kulp said.

To learn more about Kitchen@812, visit



About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.