My blogging dreams came true on June 27, 2017 – I got to be a judge at a food competition!!!

Hyatt Regency Bellevue hosted a “Chopped”-style competition called the Good Taste Series, which featured eight of the top Hyatt chefs from across the western region who created two dishes using the mystery basket items in an attempt to advance to the national Good Taste Series competition in Chicago.

Hello, my name is Lesley and I am a food judge!

Chefs representing Kauai, Maui, San Francisco, Waikiki, Calgary, Seattle, Vancouver (BC) and Maui had five mystery items they had to include in their dishes: cornbread, clams, quail, green tea and heirloom tomatoes.  What kind of culinary adventure was my palate about to take?  Let’s find out!

Hyatt Regency Bellevue Director of Food and Beverage, Jason Queen and Executive Chef, John Pivar, welcomed all of the guest judges to the ballroom and talked about the Good Taste Series and what it means to be a part of it.  The Hyatt flew in the 8 contestants from around the region and gave them the five mystery ingredients the day before the competition.  To help inspire them, the chefs received a tour of Pike Place Market and had a blast visiting the iconic Seattle marketplace.  We watched a video montage of their tour and got to learn a little about each of the chef’s backgrounds. John and Jason then introduced each of the chefs as they made their way to their cooking stations.  I was practically drooling as I was ready to eat!

The criteria for scoring was as follows:

Flavor – Maximum 20 Points
Presentation – Maximum 10 Points
Criteria/Guest Interaction – Maximum 10 Points

As someone who has no experience judging food (and I’ll just put it out there to all the food critics, at first I didn’t know what exactly I was doing besides eating), I just want to say that everything was absolutely delicious.  Some dishes may have not been as flavorful as I would have thought, but each of the chefs were fantastic.  All scored very high on criteria and guest interaction and each of the presentations made the dishes almost too beautiful to eat.  I never would have been able to pair those mystery ingredients with anything, and each of the 8 chefs knocked it out of the park!  Let your eyes feast on the dishes below, and then book your hotel stay at each of those Hyatt’s and eat at their restaurants!

Table One: Chef Eric Bartolome, Hyatt Regency Waikiki

Dish 1, Filipino-inspired
Dish 2, Filipino-inspired quail, clam and cornbread

Table Two: Chef JJ Earnest, Hyatt Regency Maui

Dish 1, crisp Spanish chorizo
Dish 2, quail wrapped in bacon

Table 3: Chef Kieran Fleming, Hyatt Olive 8

Dishes 1 and 2, breaded quail with cornbread compote and smoked clam with green tea broth and pickled watermelon

Table Four: Chef Jamie Celaya, Hyatt Regency San Francisco

Dish 1, poached sockeye salmon with cornbread crustini
Dish 2, cornbread/clam dirty stuffing with quail

Table Five: Chef Omar Salinas, Grand Hyatt Kauai

Dish 1, grilled quail with orange balsamic reduction and corn bread
Dish 2, Mexican seafood cocktail

Table 6: Chef Chance Savell, Andaz Maui

Dish 1, seared quail, quail stock with chorizo cherry
Dish 2, soup with smoked tomato and clams poached in pickled garlic and green tea

Table 7: Chef Jenn Kimm, Hyatt Regency Calgary

Dish 1, compressed tomato, house-cured Alaska salmon, steamed clams with green tea and maple syrup caviar
Dish 2, chili soy broth seasoned rice, stuffed quail with cornbread and bacon

Table 8: Chef Brandon Wilson, Hyatt Regency Vancouver

Dish 1, Kentucky-fried quail with green tea spices and pickled cherries
Dish 2, risotto cooked in green tea, mascarpone, twice cooked clams, stuffed with chorizo and cornbread

In the end, Chef Jamie Celaya placed third, Chef Omar Salinas placed second and (drum roll, please), Chef Jenn Kim won first place!  All of the scores were so close they had to do a recount to make sure their math was correct!  Chef Kim will be attending the championship in Chicago later this summer.

Chefs waiting for the winner to be announced!

Thank you to the Hyatt Regency Bellevue and Duo PR for inviting me to attend and check food judge off my bucket list!

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