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April 30, 2009 at 5:25 PM

Sorrento’s hunt over: Matthew Mina new member of the club

As far as publicity stunts go, the Sorrento Hotel’s month-long hunt for a new executive chef was a rousing success — says the woman who was there Tuesday night for the final installment of “The Hunt.” That’s when two chef finalists wooed a panel of judges and other guests, facing off before a hungry audience in a kitchen-classroom at Seattle Culinary Academy.

Taking their cue from TV’s “Top Chef,” Christopher Jensen (presently the Hunt Club’s “interim” chef-exec) and Matthew Mina (a Bellevue native, lately of San Francisco) — who beat out two other semifinalists last week — showcased their talents in a dining duel. Mina was named the Hunt Club’s new executive chef today:

What did he bring to the table — besides a resume that includes sheepskin from California Culinary Academy and the CIA at Greystone and a resume sporting stints at some of Northern California’s finest restaurants? This:

Corn cappucino — the pure essence of corn

Hamachi sashimi with citrus fruit and daikon sprouts

Flat iron steak with bone marrow risotto and mushroom ragout

Rich? Ya think?

Chocolate custard cake with butterscotch-braised bananas

His competition, Chris Jensen, pictured below readying his meat course with help from SCA students, did himself proud:

Here’s his four-course dinner:

Duck confit with smoked cipollini

Seared halibut with roasted beets and blood-orange vinaigrette

Lamb chop with wild ramps, fava beans and lamb jus

Chocolate tangerine semi-freddo

And get this: these guys worked so well together, Jensen’s staying on at the hotel as Mina’s sous-chef.

Among my fellow judges were these local celebs — Tom Skerritt and Kathy Casey:

I asked Tom where he likes to eat when he goes out “fancy.” He didn’t pause a beat before naming Lampreia — where he and his wife Julie celebrated a special occasion just last week. And when they go out for a casual meal they often eat at Nishino (“We don’t like to leave the neighborhood,” explained the Madison Park resident). Now there’s a guy with great taste! Also passing judgment were Seattle Culinary Academy instructors Karen Jurgensen and Greg Atkinson, seen here “fancy” and “casual”:

The judges weren’t the only ones getting into the competitive spirit(s). These gals, sitting directly behind me, were a riot:

Sorrento GM Jeff Jobe, seen addressing judges and diners on Tuesday, was quoted today as saying of his new hire: “From his simple grilled cheese sandwich — spontaneously served during one of the [earlier] competition dinners — to an elaborate espresso caviar dish, we were impressed with chef Mina’s range and creativity and couldn’t be more pleased to name him as the Hunt Club’s new executive chef”:

Funnily enough, after getting a taste of Mina’s culinary prowess and that of his new sous, I headed out to my car, passing a Porche whose license plate appeared to be reading my mind:

Anyway, while I hate to admit it’s been (gulp) 10 years since I’ve eaten at the Hunt Club, knowing what I know now, I’ve got reason to return.

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