San Diego’s 9th Annual Chef Showdown | A Heated Competition to Benefit the Center for Community Solutions

October 4, 2013

WINNING TEAM: Evgeny Anisimov, Jeff Josenhans, Scotty Wagner,
Amy Dibiase (team captain), Lori Sauer and Percy Oani.
By Megan Gallagher | SanDiegoVille Contributor

San Diego’s top chefs and mixologists showcased their competitive sides last week at this year's Chef Showdown, using their culinary chops and creativity in an entertaining battle for the title, raising over $150,000 in support of the Center for Community Solutions. The 9th annual Chef Showdown took place on September 26 at the NTC Promenade at Liberty Station and was not only a showcase of culinary talent, but also an evening of celebration and support for a center dedicated to the prevention of sexual assault and domestic violence in San Diego.

The Promenade served as the perfect backdrop for the event, with the culinary competition stage in the center of the action and more than two dozen different restaurants and bars lining the perimeter, offering samples of their most popular dishes.

Some of our favorites included Carnitas’ Snack Shack’s pork belly BLT, Mia Francesca’s gnocchi, Kitchen 1540’s chilled corn soup and San Diego Paella’s traditional paella. Other participating restaurants included The Grant Grill, Davanti Enoteca, Solare, The Shores, Café Japengo and more. Stone Brewing Co. and Trumer Pils were on hand to lend a refreshing drink.

Lucien Conner making cocktails
The night wasn’t all about taste testing, of course. After the official cocktail hour, it was time for the chef competition to heat up. Team 1 included Team Captain Amy DiBiase (Baleen), Evgeny Anisimov and Jeff Josenhans (Grant Grill and Lounge), Scott Wagner (Chi Cuisine), Lori Sauer (George's at the Cove) and Percy Oani (The Shores La Jolla). Team 2 included Team Captain Anthony Sinsay (Herringbone Los Angeles), Joe Magnanelli (Cucina Urbana), John Bautista (Kitchen 1540), Hanis Cavin (Carnitas’ Snack Shack), Rachel King (NINE-TEN), Mario Cassineri (Bice), Lucien Conner (Campine Catering), Flor Franco and Ian Ward.

The competition got off to an exciting start as emcees Sam Zien (Sam the Cooking Guy) and Susan DeVincent revealed the secret ingredient for the evening, live crab. Zien also mixed it up by announcing that each team was allowed to “steal” one ingredient from the other team – a move that surely made the chefs sweat just a bit more under the lights of the promenade. As soon as they heard “Go!” they scrambled to get started on dishes that would wow the judges. In the meantime, Zien and DeVincent auctioned off dozens of items, including a coveted seat at the judges table next to Chef Bernard Guillas (Marine Room), Ingrid Croce (Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar) Amy Finley of Riviera Magaine and Javier Plascencia of Mision 19.

Anthony Sinsay, Rachel King, Jon Bautista and Hanis Cavin
In addition to the auction, time was set aside for a woman who has personally used the services at the Center for Community Solutions to share her experience with the organization. Her story was just one of many points in the night that made the crowd realize the importance and the value of supporting the Center.

For all attendees, Chef Showdown was a unique opportunity to get a glimpse behind closed doors at some of the top restaurants in the city. With the preparation stations front and center, we saw every bit of the action from the moment inspiration hit to the second the final product was plated and brought to judgment.

Watching the chefs and mixologists at work was a truly fascinating and impressive experience, especially given the short amount of time they were allotted, just about 20 minutes per heat, and the pressure of being watched by dozens of onlookers. Back at the judges table, dishes were rated based on several criteria, including creativity of the dish, presentation and, of course, taste. In the end, Team 1 took home the crown, winning by just 3 points (214 v. 211) and in mixology with a score of 209 v 188.

The real winner, of course, was the Center for Community Solutions, which raised thousands of dollars from the silent and live auctions and other donations. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Center’s domestic violence prevention and intervention programs and services. Founded in 1969, Center for Community Solutions assists more than 30,000 women, men and children affected by sexual assault, domestic violence and elder abuse each year. The Center also operates the only Rape Crisis Center in the City of San Diego along with a 24-hour bilingual crisis helpline.

For information on next year's event and to learn what you can do to assist the Center for Community Solutions, visit