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Chef Cale Falk Wins Casa Laguna Cook-Off

Published: 03/02/2010

(Laguna Beach, CA) -- Casa Laguna Inn & Spa in Laguna Beach has announced the winner of their Culinary Competition, held poolside at the inn on February 18, 2010.  Chef Cale Falk, previous Gold Medal winner at Select Registry's 2008 Distinguished Inns of North America's "Inn-Credible Breakfast Cook-off," took the winning spot again with his Asparagus Flan with Herb Confit Potatoes topped with poached eggs and crispy Asparagus.

Falk's creation won out over those of Select Registry's 2007 winner, Peter O'Keefe, and current Casa Laguna Executive Chef, Josh Roberts. The chefs were asked to create a dish that represented their individual style, and would be appropriate for inclusion on Casa Laguna's breakfast menu.  The recipes had to follow in the inn's "Slow Food Movement" tradition using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients.

The Culinary Competition kicked off Casa Laguna's 10-year anniversary celebration, with founder/owner Francois Leclair acting as master of ceremonies, and former co-owner Paul Blank servings as one of the judges. The rest of the judging panel included Fifi Chao, Food Reviewer for the Orange County Business Journal,; Laguna Beach Mayor Elizabeth Pearson; President of the Laguna Beach Visitors and Convention Bureau, Karyn Phillipsen; and special guest judges, long-time regular Casa Laguna guests, Shauna and Dave Weiner, who got married at the inn four years ago.

After the cook-off, Leclair presented each chef with a "Top Chef" cookbook and a one-of-a-kind ceramic presentation platter handmade by local Laguna artist Doreen Mellen; as well as cash prizes. A photo of Chef Falk's winning dish will appear on the cover of Casa Laguna's upcoming Tenth Anniversary Cookbook, and the item will be included on the inn's summer menu.

"We couldn't believe how close the votes were," Leclair said after the event. "Each of the three chefs had won one or more of the categories, and Chef Falk beat out the other chefs with only one point of a possible 50 points. We knew they were all good, but we never realized how closely their talents matched."

Chef Peter O'Keefe, who won the 2007 Select Registry Silver Award while working at Casa Laguna, received the most points for creativity and menu appropriateness with his "Eggs Benedict Belly Up" - a stylish dish featuring pork belly "tater tots", served with a sunny side up egg perched atop brioche and finished with hollandaise sauce and corn foam.

Casa Laguna's current Executive Chef, Joshua Roberts, grabbed top points for overall taste with his signature "South Laguna Benedict" - comprised of fluffy poached eggs sitting atop a whole wheat ravioli stuffed with Portobello and shallot filling, served with brown butter hollandaise and roasted asparagus wrapped in pancetta.

The inn's manager, Kathryn Mace, reminds foodies that Casa Laguna is a bed & breakfast inn, not a restaurant. "I always tell people, you have to experience our beds before you experience our breakfast. But unlike most B&Bs, Casa Laguna offers a full breakfast menu with a variety of gourmet dishes to chose from. That's why we're now known as a "foodie" destination."

Built in the 1920's as a private residence, Casa Laguna would later become an artist colony, then a motel, before being transformed into a 22-room bed & breakfast by Orange County businessmen Francois Leclair and Paul Blank in 2000. Leclair became sole owner just last year, and Kathryn Mace has been General Manager since 2006.

Casa Laguna Inn and Spa is located at 2510 South Coast Highway, two blocks north of the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach. Those interested in staying overnight and experiencing the inn's unique breakfast offerings can call 949-494-2996 for reservations, or visit the Casa Laguna website,

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