After 32 servings with friends, family, legendary surf/skate heroes, a mountain of executive chefs and a cracker of a sunset, I was left… well… happy. A bland description, but oh so accurate and fitting. Happy is good food. Happy is a gathering of all the surrounding neighborhoods. Happy is clinking glasses with Steve Caballero, Mike McGill and Taylor Knox. Happy is moon walking down the aisles watching North County’s finest plate and pour anything and everything you’d ever want, and depositing it straight into your belly. Happy is North Eats.
Over time, one thing people will learn about Ono Yum is that we love food, community, music,the ocean — and everything in and around it! So, it’s no surprise that each Ono Yum event is a stone’s throw from the water. Water is the makeup of just about everything that we are, that we love and that we appreciate. It’s important that we stay close. For the second year in a row, the oceanfront Carlsbad Hilton, now known as Cape Rey, provided an ideal venue to hold our group of 500 strong, and gave everyone a front row seat to a beautifully twisted sunset and a really good time.
With Baker & Olive supporting the cast and crew, we were able to provide a nice little tweak to the event by having each chef use a Baker & Olive product. Trust me; this is not a curse, it is a blessing! From oils and vinegars to salts and peppers, these chefs were given the keys to their own culinary Ferrari. Seafood, pork, beef, veggies, fruit… it didn’t stop… cured, pickled, salted, candied, braised, sautéed, fried, pressed, infused, smoked, chilled… whew! Plate after plate, we got something different and people were blown away by the diversity. The different ingredients, styles and levels of expertise set each and every chef apart; that’s the name of the game.
Not to be outdone by last year’s North Eats, it was undeniably, without a doubt, no-questions-asked, MANDATORY to bring back the Cook or Kook Competition. As we mentioned, the lifestyle we choose in and around the ocean, and the things that accompany it between California and Hawaii play a huge role in our lives, so the goal is to share the stoke. Last year, professional surfers Taylor Knox and Benji Weatherly squared off in the inaugural competition to see which pro was the Cook and which pro was the Kook. With Taylor narrowly taking the win last year, he showed up again… but this time to help judge the second bout.
The crowd was throwing out hoots and shakas for the main event, with Bones Brigade skateboarding legends Steve Caballero and Mike McGill taking the cook-off front and center.
Though known to make a few solid meals for from time to time, let’s face the fact: these skaters weren’t exactly CIA grads (Culinary Institute of America)! So, Ono Yum supplied these skate pioneers with two of the very best mentors in the cooking business. Chef Stephen Reyna of The Privateer in Oceanside assisted Steve Caballero, while Chef Andrew Bechelier of Cucina Enoteca Del Mar stood tough with Mike McGill. Reyna and Bechelier have distinct cooking styles — both ridiculously elevated in their own way, shape and form. With mutual respect, the two chefs ate at each other’s tables, which made it that much more fun and inspiring to watch. In the end, Steve Ca… I mean, Chef Caballero won by a fraction of a point; leaving him as the Cook. Mr. McGill, while so close and with such a valiant effort and huge local backing, still wound up as the Kook. Buuuuuuut I’m pretty sure it was okay the next day when he strapped on his skate pads and made everyone in the park know that he was far from it. Both these legends rip.
A big MAHALO to everyone involved – cooks and kooks, chefs and diners, friends and families, surfers and skaters – it was a night to remember. As the final jazz riffs spun off into the night and chefs packed their gear, there were a lot of hugs, laughs, belly rubs — and most certainly a lot of “I’ll be back next year!” So, for the next 364 days, the question will remain: who will be the cook… and who will be the kook?
Learn more about the restaurants and communities involved with North Eats: