Clean Plates Don’t Lie…Taste Buds Chef’s Competition


This past Saturday, I had the honor of being a guest judge at The Inspired Home, Garden and Gourmet Expo’s Chef’s Competition at the Paso Robles Event Center. The blind tasting included dishes from five SLOcal chefs, chosen to compete in a “Chopped” style cook off. Each chef’s creation had to incorporate at least four ingredients from Arroyo Grande’s Talley Farms.

Judged by a professional panel of judges and attendees, judges included Liz Dodder Hansen (Edible Santa Barbara), Jacob Town (Spoon Trade), Katy Budge (The Tribune), and Kendra Aronson (The San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market Cookbook). Each delicious recipe will be published in the March issue of Inspired Health Magazine, as well as featured on Taste Buds TV show. So…forks up…and let the eating begin!


 #1 – Chef Nicola Allegretta, Mistura Restaurant

Paso Robles

Chicken stew in beer sauce with aji panca chili peppers, served with a cauliflower and quinoa pancake

Bold, spicy, incredibly innovative. This dish mirrors the restaurant’s concept, a restaurant that pays homage to the diversity of Peruvian food by proposing flavors that are “once familiar yet adventurous and unexpected.” This modern Peruvian restaurant captures the multicultural spirit of Peru, blending its Native Pre-Columbian and Incas gastronomic heritage with the Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Japanese influences that embody the country’s vibrant cuisine.

Chef Allegretta, a passionate traveler, is also passionately committed to sustainability – cultivating and harvesting most of the organic produce for the menu from the restaurant’s garden. In constant contact with nature, the restaurant provides guests with a true Farm-to-Table experience. Furthermore, Allegretta is committed to preserving the land and its resources, sourcing all meats locally and adhering to strict sustainability practices for produce, fishery and cattle livestock.


#2 – Chef Casey Walcott, SeaVenture Restaurant

Pismo Beach

Seared smoked scallops with cara cara and brussel sprout slaw and coastal fruit chutney  

Food as art, or art as food? Chef Walcott’s creativity shines through, with the farm fresh ingredients driving this dish. Simple, elegant, and incredibly fresh. At the Pismo restaurant, ocean views meet coastal cuisine, where Chef Walcott creates cuisine inspired by the surrounding local wine country (and beautiful bounty of the land and the sea).

Make sure to catch a sunset and cocktail at their panoramic outdoor deck, with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. An OpenTable Diner’s Choice Winner, Chef Walcott offers a farm-fresh take on classical culinary methods, evident in the quality of ingredients, presentation, and impeccable service.


#3 – Chef Sarah Paddack, Chipwrecked Restaurant

Pismo Beach

Fresh market quiche with sweet harvest salad 

This is not your grandmother’s quiche. With a cauliflower crust and apple top, this farm driven creation paired beautifully with the tangy citrus salad. Like any good treasure, this tiny shop is not easy to find, but worth the hunt in Pismo Beach. Specializing in “Chipwrecks,” their chips are cut and fried fresh to order, topped with seasonings that they create and blend in house (think fresh herbs, cheeses, and drizzles).

Make sure to try one of the 10 “tugboats” — 10 dipping sauce options that include ranch, spicy chipotle and creamy peanut butter. The restaurant is a family venture, with Chef Paddack enlisting her husband Dan and daughter Larkin for charting new flavors. The restaurant also runs a rotating list of sandwiches and salads, all of which have a side of chips “docked on the side.”


#4 – Chef Steven Smeets, Apple Farm Restaurant 

San Luis Obispo

Fried chicken stuffed with prosciutto and smoked gouda, with a carrot and brussels sprouts hash, sliced fingerling potatoes, creamed spinach, and caramelized cauliflower 

Crispy, crunchy perfection. This dish screamed comfort, rich and buttery with beautiful caramelized veggies. This SLOcal favorite restaurant has been a popular spot for decades for locals and visitors alike, offering traditional favorites (and their INCREDIBLE hot apple dumplings). In addition to their world famous fresh pastries and pies, Chef Smeets creations change seasonally and reflect the freshest local ingredients.

He describes his style as how a farmer would cook if he were a chef. Sourcing local produce, meats, and seafood from the area’s farmers’ markets, make sure to experience one of their signature Backyard Winemaker Dinners on their heated Garden patio.


#5 – Chef Chris Beckett, Fish Gaucho Restaurant 

Paso Robles

Hawaiian albacore crudo with mandarin oranges, pink lady apples, and a kiwi foam

Tangy, flavorful, a perfect balance of acid and sweet. The popular California Mexican & Tequila bar is inspired by the fresh flavors of Baja California, with a healthy twist to traditional Mexican food and some of the finest tequilas (north of the border).

The Paso Robles restaurant is 100% committed to sourcing the freshest seafood, shellfish, local produce, organic meats, and finest tequilas available. The perfect dish to pair alongside one of their hand squeezed – hand muddled margaritas.

And the Winner Is…

Congrats to Chris Beckett of Fish Gaucho for Judge’s Choice and Nicola Allegretta of Mistura for People’s Choice. Until next year! To all the chefs…thanks for keeping our taste buds inspired!


Taste. Trek. Travel.

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