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Our Community Focus

Pleasant Hill Mayor's Message

Sep 03, 2014 03:51PM ● By Elena Hutslar


During the last few weeks leading up to the start of the school year, I, along with anyone I could engage, was talking about healthy school lunches and nutrition education. Why? Because the 6th Annual Contra Costa County Mayors’ Healthy Cook-off competition was held at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord on Thursday, July 31. All 19 Contra Costa County cities were invited to bring their mayor and a chef from their city to compete "Iron Chef" style to create a winning dish that promoted healthy eating. Ten cities, including Pleasant Hill, participated. The Mayors’ Healthy Cook-off brings our communities together to raise awareness for healthy living, which begins with health and nutrition education.


Although I am more of a gourmand than a gourmet, I was excited to represent Pleasant Hill in the cook-off with Chef Oscar Patlan from El Aguila. Oscar and his wife, Giorgia, are the owners of the farm-to-table Mexican cuisine gem of a restaurant located at 1300 Contra Costa Boulevard.


We nervously gathered at 4pm on July 31 at Todos Santos Plaza in 100+ degree weather with the other participating cities and were given a whole chicken, tofu, polenta, walnuts, cheese, and various produce items from local farmers. No spices were allowed—only salt, pepper and olive oil. Oscar took charge and soon had me wrapping chicken in parchment paper and foil, slicing cherry tomatoes and grapes, and pureeing with an immersion blender. This device brings the blender to the food, rather than the food to the blender, which, in my opinion, exponentially increases the risk of blender splatter—stand back! Oscar wisely kept me away from the mandolin and the larger knives.  I was amazed at Oscar’s skill and artistry. We were ably assisted by Mt. Diablo High School student sous chef in training Christian Torres and a number of Pleasant Hill volunteers that helped set up and decorate our booth and keep us hydrated. (The Walnut Creek chef passed out with heat stroke and was carried off in a stretcher by the fire department.)


So what healthy menu did “we” create in just over an hour and plate for 15 judges?

Chilled lentil soup garnished with cherry tomatoes, basil, and olive oil.

Grilled spinach salad with peaches & grapes, drizzled with blackberry/basil dressing.

Tofu roll with yellow squash, grilled eggplant & cilantro, garnished with a daikon and red onion relish. (These items were plated together as a starter or vegetarian offering).

Polenta gratin with sautéed kale, mozzarella cheese, and walnuts.

Chicken mixiote with yellow squash, basil, fennel, olive oil, salt & pepper. (The chicken and vegetables were piled on top of the polenta and kale).


Although we were exhausted from the pressure and heat, the hard work paid off! Pleasant Hill placed third in the county, and we now move on to compete with the top three mayor/chef combos of Alameda County. I am told that competition will be scheduled sometime in October.  Stay tuned for the October date, and be sure to come out and cheer on your home team! And put down the donut and have a piece of fruit.


Community Service Day—CSD X

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Community Service Day, which takes place on Saturday, September 27. By the time you read this, I hope you have submitted a project or signed up to help. There are a number of school cleanup projects, a food drive, the bike build-a-thon, ‘Crafts for the Community’ sewing project at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, YMCA painting & landscaping, Pleasant Hill Instructional Garden, and more. You will find there are projects for everyone, of all abilities and ages—so you can pick a project for the whole family to work together side by side.

Community Service Day kicks off at Pleasant Hill Park at 7:30am, with volunteers gathering for a free pancake breakfast courtesy of the Lions Club. The first 600 volunteers to register at the park that day also receive a free event T-Shirt and special commemorative gardening gloves, plus snacks and drinks to take with you to your project sites.

In recognition of the ten years of volunteerism, the Civic Action Commission will collate photographs and video footage from the previous nine Community Service Day events and host an exhibit at City Hall during the month of September and produce a special commemorative video to be aired on the City Channel. If you’ve been involved in any of the previous years, drop by City Hall in September and see how this annual service day started with a few hundred volunteers and grew into an award winning event that inspired several neighboring cities to follow suit.  Be sure to check out the T-shirt signed by all the volunteers from our very first service day back in 2005.

If you haven’t signed up yet for CSD X yet, go to where you will find all of the projects currently registered, and you can sign up for a specific project. If you want to register a project, go to and do so.