By Brandon Hernández
It’s no secret that La Jolla has long been a hotbed for innovative cuisine. Our community is home to some of Southern California’s most brilliant chefs. Finding a spectacular restaurant is easy. Often, it’s choosing which restaurant to dine at that presents a challenge. On the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 10th, The Marine Room will reign as the clear-cut favorite when it plays host to a special Chef Dinner featuring dishes prepared by 12 of the area’s most revered chefs.
Few things merit closing the doors of any restaurant for an entire night, much less a venue as prestigious and patronized as The Marine Room, which indicates the significance of this event. The Chef Dinner will showcase the very best in cutting-edge gourmet cuisine while raising money for the San Pasqual Academy, a residential education campus for 110 foster teens, and their efforts to support the San Diego Slow Food movement via development of a student-sustained farm at their Escondido campus.
“This is a rare opportunity for diners to experience cuisine by some of the best chefs in La Jolla and support a worthwhile cause in the process,” explained executive chef Bernard Guillas who, with support from his colleagues at The Marine Room and its owner/operator, the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, has taken the reigns on nearly every preparatory aspect of this event, including hand-picking a veritable all-star cast of culinary talent.
“Our focus was on award-winning chefs,” noted Sara DeYoung of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club when explaining how individuals were recruited for this charitable effort. “We’re ecstatic about having all of these high-caliber chefs together in one room.”
Working their culinary magic alongside Chef Guillas and his Chef de Cuisine Ron Oliver will be Michele Coulon (Michele Coulon Dessertier), Evan Cruz (Roy’s La Jolla), Tony DiSalvo (Jack’s La Jolla), Trey Foshee (George’s California Modern), Jesse Frost (Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa), Jeff Jackson (The Lodge at Torrey Pines), Ryan Johnston (Fresh[er]), Jason Knibb (NINE-TEN), Damaso Lee (Trattoria Acqua) and Stephen Window (Roppongi).
“That’s going to be a powerful kitchen,” declared Guillas.
With such a seasoned consortium of gastronomic prowess at hand, harnessing and organizing that talent to create an extraordinary dining experience can be likened to conducting a world-class symphony, allowing each member to shine while contributing to a perfect 12-part harmony. Fortunately, Guillas is not only ready and able, but quite excited to play the role of maestro. And thanks to his winning personality, his “friends” are happy to follow his lead.
“Whenever I’m asked to do events like this, I have so little time off that I have to say no. But Bernard has always been there for us, so when he asked me, I immediately said ‘yes.’ It’s going to be so much fun,” said Michele Coulon, who Guillas has dubbed the “queen” of the event.
“All of us work hard and don’t often get the opportunity to get together with our buddies and cook,” proclaims Jeff Jackson, who is contributing a renaissance pasticcio of tortellini, meatballs, cinnamon cream and duck sauce finished with its liver (quite the nouveau take on a 200-year-old classic recipe). “Whenever I do an event like this, I like to do things I can’t do at the restaurant and give people something they may have never seen before.”
It appears Jackson’s buddies share his adventurous approach.
Popping corks will signal the start of a champagne reception at 6:30 p.m. and, though hors d’ouevres at similar receptions tend to best be described as “standard” or “traditional,” there is nothing pedestrian about the upscale, inspired amuses that lay in store for event attendees. Some of the more avant-garde offerings include dry-cured chorizo, octopus and sweet potato skewers from Fresh[er], black truffle raviolini with a silky celery root veloute, butterscotch and sage from Jack’s La Jolla and a juniper-crusted bison tenderloin offering paired with Guinness, pickled onions, golden raisins and pumpernickel.
That same level of playful-yet-calculated innovation is exhibited throughout the six-course dinner menu, which will begin at 7:15 p.m. with a salad of roasted baby beets, haricot verts and arugula featuring pistachio powder and liquid Chèvre (something you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else) from NINE-TEN and segues nicely to The Marine Room’s mainstay creation, butternut squash nectar complimented by glazed Goji berries, fromage blanc and carob vincotto.
Next up is a diverse pair of entrees - a farmed Loch Duart salmon filet from Roppongi followed by The Lodge’s pasticcio - followed by a cheese course from George’s California Modern and a plate of petite, yet satisfying sweets from Michele Coulon Dessertier that will round out an eclectic and delicious cavalcade of unique taste sensations.
From the kitchen to the dining room, the theme of this event is collaboration. “As I bring the chefs together, I also want to bring together people from the community who share a passion for food and want to help foster children,” stated Guillas, who instituted open-seating to build camaraderie and make for a light, enjoyable dining environment.
One hundred and forty attendees are estimated to partake of this delectable experience. For reservations, call (858) 459-7222. The price is $95 per person for the reception, dinner and wine (tax and gratuity not included). The Marine Room is located at 2000 Spindrift Drive in La Jolla.