Thanksgiving Chef Battle ~ Harvard Cookin’ Girl, La Jolla


I had the extreme pleasure of being invited to an Iron Chef style dinner last week at Harvard Cookin’ Girl .The venue and school ,located in the heart of La Jolla, is the passion and brainchild of, proprietor Bibi Kasrai. In addition to unique “Iron Chef” events, like the one I attended, the school also hosts a range of classes and themed dinners. Some of their upcoming holiday classes and dinners include the Persain Tahdig Night featuring types of Tahdig (crisp rice) and a  German European Dinner featuring Schnitzel ( breaded, fried meat)and Tarte Tatin (upside down fruit tart) You can see the full schedule here.

The school is divided into two areas. The front hosts two state of the art kitchens, while the backroom has the third kitchen and dining area. The space is open and airy, yet maintains an intimate appeal.

Note ~ all photos provided by Ramon Gonzales

collage icd

The backrooms third kitchen and dinning area.

bibi 2Owner Bibi Kasari (center) with participating chefs Mario Medina, Pablo Banuelos, Craig Jimenez, Tony Nguyen, and judges Michael Rosen, Nathan Coulon, and JoeMagnanelli

Co-hosting the event was Chefs’ Roll, an international Chef Network based here in San Diego. Chef’s Roll provides culinary professionals a voice to share their culinary stories through customized web portfolios designed exclusively for chefs. Frans van der Lee, president and co-­founder of Chef’s Roll was present and gifted complimentary profiles to each competitor.


Some of San Diego’s best industry purveyors donated products and ingredients. Wine pairings were provided by Cavas Valmar, fresh seafood by Catalina Offshore Products, turkey by Homegrown Meats, and locally grown produce by Specialty Produce. Prizes were sponsored by Chef Works Apparel and Gunter Wilhelm Cutlery. Information on sponsors will be at bottom of post.


 Casa Valmar Wines ~ Encinada, Baja California

The event was set up kitchen battle style with each chef preparing two courses using a predetermined theme. The theme for that night’s battle was “A take on Thanksgiving.”

The Chefs


Executive Chefs ~ Mario Medina and Craig Jimenez

battle begins

The battle begins with Chef Craig Jimenez presenting first.

starter 1Crisp, ricotta,uni,and salmon roe

Nice start, the sweetness of the ricotta worked well with the creaminess of the uni and saltiness of the salmon roe. The crisp provided nice texture contrast.

Next up: Chef Mario Medina


Behind the scenes action: Mario Medina (left)

marios starter

Chef Mario Medina’s first course : Lobster and crab bisque, truffle oil, micro basil

Really flavorful dish with a great presence of sweet crab.

Round Two


Behind the scenes with Chef Craig Jimenez (forefront)

Main curry

Craig Jimenez’s second course:Turkey in curry with samphire.

I really loved this dish, it had just enough heat from the curry and the nice saltiness of the samphire. This dish was my favorite of the night.

chef mario prep

Chef Mario Medina plating his second course.

Chef Marios Main

A great take on classic turkey dinner. Turkey and asparagus, stuffing and gravy with poached pear.

I really liked the perfectly poached pear in place of cranberry sauce.

 The Judging.

20 lucky guests and the 3 guest judges ­ Michael Rosen (partner at Juniper & Ivy), Nathan Coulon(Executive Chef of True Food Kitchen), and Joe Magnanelli (Executive Chef of Cucina Urbana) ­ judged the chefs on flavor, presentation and originality. The judges’ votes were more influential in choosing the winner – being weighted 3 times higher than normal than each guests.

The Judges


Left to right starting with the gentleman in the gray plaid jacket.~ Michael Rosen– Owner of Juniper and Ivy, Nathan Coulon– Chef of True Food, Joe Magnanelli– Executive Chef of Cucina Urbana, Cucina Enoteca and all the Urban group restaurants.

This judging panel was quite impressive. It was made up of some of San Diego’s most experienced chefs and restauranteurs.

The Winner


Learn more about the winner, chef Mario Medina on his Chef’s Roll profile here.

Hats off to both Chefs for a great meal.

Also a Thank you to  Michele Coulon as the dessertier for the night.

What a special and fun event. I definitely recommend checking out any of the Iron Chef battles. For information on the next Iron Chef event, please visit Harvard Cookin Girl.

More about the sponsors:

Seafood sponsor – Catalina Offshore Products:

Founded nearly 40 years ago by owner Dave Rudie, Catalina Offshore Products has grown steadily into one of the region’s premier seafood purveyors and one of the largest seafood import and export companies in California.  World famous for their California uni, Catalina Offshore products have been featured by Bizarre Food America as well as numerous local and national media outlets from Vogue to the LA Times. To learn more, please visit

Produce sponsor – Specialty Produce:

Located in San Diego, Specialty Produce (SP) is a family owned and operated food service and retail produce supplier with over twenty years of experience. Specialty Produce carries a full line of produce and many non-produce products, most catalogued in their online encyclopedia.  Products may be delivered 7 days a week by the positive and vibrant SP team.  To learn more, please visit

Cutlery sponsor- Gunter Wilhelm Cutlery:

Gunter Wilhelm® products are used by the iconic White House Chef Tour® (White House, Vice President’s residence, Camp David etc.), executive, professional and celebrity chefs, top ranked restaurants and numerous passionate home cooks and chefs all over the world.  Their product lines are designed with you in mind and offer the ultimate culinary experience.  To learn more, visit

Apparel sponsor – Chef Works:

Chef Works is the leading manufacturer and distributor of chef clothing and uniforms for restaurants and hotels worldwide.  To learn more, visit

Event Co-sponsor – Chef’s Roll:

Chef’s Roll, is the world’s fastest growing international network for professional chefs. Used by chefs in over 100+ countries, Chef’s Roll provides chefs a place to celebrate their talents, careers, and share their culinary stories through customized web portfolios.  From culinary students to Michelin­ starred chefs, Chef’s Roll welcomes you to the table.  To learn more, please visit

Event Venue and Co-Host & Co-Sponsor-Harvard Cookin’ Girl:

Tucked away in upper Girard in the heart of La Jolla lies one of the most unique culinary venues in town- Harvard Cookin’ Girl. The school and venue was founded 5 years ago by Bibi Kasrai – a chef in her own right. Upon leaving her successful corporate career, Bibi has put her business degree and culinary prowess to the test in providing an atmosphere focused on healthy eating around the world. The kitchens, though modern and fully-equipped with state of the art appliances, feature an at-home experience you must see for yourself to truly believe. To learn more about Bibi, please visit: You can sign up for classes at 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s