The Six Finalists & Their Recipes

Six chefs competed in a head-to-head cook-off event at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in Napa, California on August 3, 2022, for more than $22,000 in cash prizes and recognition as a Cal-Mex culinary pioneer.

The event was judged by an elite team of chefs and live-streamed so viewers can watch as chefs prepare Cal-Mex dishes in three categories: Appetizer, Entrée, and Dessert. The event was hosted by award-winning author, speaker, and national food television personality Leslie Sbrocco.

The categories and finalists for the 2022 Cal-Mex Invitational

Cal-Mex Invitational - Category Appetizer

Chad Clevenger

Owner of pop-up restaurant El Nido Del Buho in Atlanta, Ga. and formerly at Alma Cocina in Atlanta as well as Mel’s Bar & Grill and Porker Street Food Cart in Denver, Colo.

Recipe: La Menonita en El Molcajete

Description: Chad’s recipe is headlined by a tortilla-crusted, fried piece of Real California Queso Menonita, served alongside fresh salsa verde and presented in an authentic Mexican Molcajete.

Chad Appetizer

Victoria Elizondo

Chef/Owner at Cochinita & Co. and Cochi’s Taqueria in Houston, Texas.

Recipe: Tres Quesos Potosinas

Description: Victoria’s entry is inspired by three Real California Cheeses – Queso Fresco, Requeson, Enchilado – to form a rich filling inside a corn flour dough. It pairs multiples chiles, shredded lettuce, and diced tomatoes with Real California Cotija and Mexican crema.

Victoria Appetizer 300
Cal-Mex Invitational - Category Entree

Claud Beltran

Chef/Co-Owner at Claud & Co. Bacchus Kitchen in Pasadena, Calif. and formerly of California-based food, catering and restaurant companies Evo Company, Beverly Hills Wine Merchant, Barbara West, and Dickenson West.

Recipe: Grilled Panela and Eggplant

Description: Claud’s creation is a fresh, exciting interpretation that transforms multiple Real California Cheeses – grilled Panela and fried Cotija – to create a dairy-focused, signature entrée.

Claud Entree 300

Mark Casale

Executive Chef at Dos Coyotes Border Café, Sacramento, Calif., incorporating the company’s 11 associated restaurants in Northern California.

Recipe: Crab and Requeson Relleno

Description: Mark’s recipe pairs Real California Requeson, Oaxaca, and Cotija with fresh crab meat, Pablano chiles, and chipotle adobo sauce for a fresh, spicy bite.

Mark Casale Entrée 300
Cal-Mex Invitational - Category Dessert

Manny Barella

Executive Chef/Partner at Bellota in Denver, Colo. And formerly of Sea Island Resort in Ga., and Calistoga Ranch, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, and Solage Resort in California’s Napa Valley.

Recipe: Carlota de Limon

Description: Manny’s dessert delivers a refreshing, sweet flavor profile by pairing the taste of fresh limes with Real California Requeson, heavy cream, cream cheese, and vanilla, with a Maria cookie added to pack a subtle, yet signature crunch.

Manny Dessert Photo 300

Marco Colin

Chef at La Luna in Chicago, Ill. And formerly of The Publican, Alinea and Soho House in Chicago.

Recipe: Winter Corn

Description: Marco’s entry relies on Real California Queso Fresco to form a rich, luscious scoop of ice cream, paired with a soft, warm corn bread base and rich caramel sauce.

Marco Colin Dessert Photo 300
California Dairy 2go Choosing Finalists



The 12 professional chefs in the Cal-Mex Invitational event will initially compete as follows:

  1. Six chefs will each submit a recipe showcasing California Hispanic-style cheeses and dairy products in the Appetizer category.
  2. The other six chefs will each submit a recipe showcasing California Hispanic-style cheeses and dairy products in the Entrée category.
  3. In addition, all 12 chefs will have the opportunity to submit a recipe in the Dessert category, using California Hispanic-style cheeses and dairy products.
California Dairy 2go Bake Off



The chefs with the winning recipes will compete in bake off at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia, in Napa, Calif. on August 3rd. The bake off will be filmed and presented as part of a live, online broadcast, hosted by a national food television personality. The chefs will prepare their dishes in front of the judges, who will award a winner in each category. The dishes will be judged using the following criteria:

  • The use of Hispanic-style California dairy products
  • Taste, texture, presentation, etc.
  • Creativity

Based on the judges’ scoring, the CMAB will present the following awards:

  • Each category winner receives a trophy and $5,000
  • Each category runner-up receives a certificate and $1,500
  • Non-finalists receive a certificate and $500 each


  • Non-finalists received $500 each
  • Each category runner-up received $1,500
  • Each category winner received $5,000
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