Chef Celebration to kick off annual dinners at Solana Beach’s Pamplemousse Grille

Thanks to the culinary scholarships, entry- and mid-level cooks can take an intensive weeklong training course at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa.
Thanks to the culinary scholarships, entry- and mid-level cooks can take an intensive weeklong training course at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa.
( / Courtesy)

To fund scholarships for aspiring chefs, dozens of award-winning chefs from around the county will come together March 31 through May 3 for the Chef Celebration’s annual Dinner Series.

Once again, the series will kick off March 31 at Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach with a five-course menu from chefs Jeffrey Strauss of Pamplemousse Grille, Bernard Guillas of The Marine Room, Tommy DiMella of Del Mar Country Club, Stephane Voitzwinkler of Bertrand at Mister A’s, and Jeff Jackson of A.R. Valentien at The Lodge at Torrey Pines.

“Some of San Diego’s finest chefs are coming to the restaurant,” said Strauss, executive chef and owner of Pamplemousse Grille. “I can’t imagine a better team being put together.”

Founded in 1995 by a small group of local chefs, Chef Celebration strives to enhance the knowledge and potential of aspiring young culinarians. Through a series of annual events, including the dinner series, the nonprofit has raised more than $225,000 in culinary scholarships for more than 80 people.

“It’s important that as a culinary community we continue to strengthen San Diego’s reputation for fantastic cuisine, and one of the best ways we can do this is to cultivate and support our successors,” said Jim Phillips, president of Chef Celebration.

With his time and his talents, Strauss has supported the organization since he opened Pamplemousse Grille in 1996.

From President George W. Bush and Prince Charles, to Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, Strauss has created dishes for a number of world leaders and world-renowned entertainers. Before opening his first restaurant, Pamplemousse Grille, he worked as an executive sous chef and executive chef at Glorious Food, a New York City catering company, for more than 15 years.

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Strauss was among nine of 800 applicants to receive a culinary apprenticeship at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia, where he earned the Gold Medal for Culinary Showmanship.

“A long, long, long time ago, I was one of those young chefs,” Strauss said. “I’ve always had help. Now, I’m excited to help.”

More than 50 local chefs, including Strauss, are participating in the 20th annual dinner series to benefit the organization’s culinary scholarship program, which sends lower and mid-level cooks on an all-expense paid, intensive weeklong training course at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa. Last year, the organization sent a dozen young cooks to the program.

Beginning March 31 at Pamplemousse Grille, the annual dinner series continues on Tuesdays throughout April at Terra American Bistro in San Diego, Tom Ham’s Lighthouse at Harbor Island, La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, and Tidal at Paradise Point Resort and Spa in San Diego. The April 7 event at Terra American Bistro will feature Carmel Valley’s “Sam the Cooking Guy” (Sam Zien) as well as local chefs Matt Gordon of Sea and Smoke and Hanis Cavin of Carnitas’ Snack Shack.

The series culminates Sunday, May 3, with Chef Celebration’s annual Beer Master Pairing Event at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Liberty Station, featuring 14 chefs and 14 breweries.

“I love this dinner and I love the group of chefs that come together every year for it,” Strauss said. “I recommend that people start with us and then go to the other ones. It’s a great deal and a great cause.”

Reservations for the five-course dinner at Pamplemousse Grille are available from 5-8:30 p.m. Tickets cost $85 per person. Pamplemousse Grille is at 514 Via de la Valle in Solana Beach.

For information or to buy tickets, call 858-792-9090 or visit

For information about Chef Celebration and the dinner series, visit