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Chefs, cuisine and wine star at Taste of Sonoma

  • Lori Fantozzi pours samples of Breathless Wines pours samples their bubbling wines at Saturday's Taste of Sonoma event in Healdsburg, August 30, 2014. (Conner Jay/Press Democrat)

As 25 minutes counted down, the final round of the Sonoma Steel Chef competition proved to be the most suspenseful moment of Saturday’s Taste of Sonoma.

More than 2,500 people paid $135 and up to come to the signature food and wine event of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend on the sprawling MacMurray Estate Vineyards in Healdsburg.

It was a sun-kissed, warm afternoon, so tasters did their best to seek out shade.

Taste Of Sonoma


The competing chefs also endeavored to keep cool under a white tent, while converting a bag of groceries into a feast.

Jack Mitchell of Jack & Tony’s Restaurant and Whisky Bar in Santa Rosa, emerged as the winner from a four-chef field after wowing the judges with his creative hijinks.

His dishes included seared venison with a huckleberry coulis, flat-iron steak with exotic mushroom ragout and veal broth and a mustard-crusted rack of lamb with ratatouille and smoked paprika.

“I get to do this every day, but this is a different animal,” Mitchell said. “I don’t know the ingredients I’m going to be working with, and it’s in front of a live audience, so it’s exhilarating and gets the creative juices flowing.”

Mitchell said cooking under fire is his forte.

“This is not my first rodeo,” he said. “I do this for a profession and for my lifestyle, so it comes naturally and easily and it’s what I enjoy.”

In between watching the competition, tasters found their way to other tents to sample wines and food pairings.

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