Cafe Society

Chef and Tell with Matt Mine from the Oceanaire Seafood Room

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Mine, who's 33 years old, an avid dog lover (he's got two boxers) and a near Oceanaire lifer -- he's been anchored to the company, a national seafood chain that's currently in bankruptcy court, with Landry's (!) making a bid for it, for more than eight years -- admits that he's easily embarrassed, works long hours and isn't the emotional type -- and he doesn't want you to be, either. "If you're needy," he warns, "you needn't apply." Nor is he interested in "naggers, cat lovers or anyone who's too emotional." Instead, says Mine, who's currently trying "to get a real hand grenade converted into a gear shift knob" for his Jeep, you should be someone who "doesn't mind hanging out and doing nothing, or doing something completely off the wall" -- like messing around with hand grenades, for example. He prefers a woman who's "silly but serious" and someone who "likes to knock back a couple of beers on a Sunday afternoon." It's a plus if you're a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.

"I can cook, right? At least I have that going for me," insists Mine, who prefers that his next girlfriend appreciate not just food, but his food. And she's "gotta be able to help me fix up my damn yard, because while I can cook, I don't have a green thumb." If it sounds like you're the ideal candidate, Mine recommends that you track him down on Facebook, but be advised that he has a vetting process in place, albeit a loose one. "I don't want to scare anyone away," he says.

After reading his interview, we suspect Mine will be inundated with offers.

Six words to describe your food: Must include bacon or pork products.

Ten words to describe you: Nervous, neurotic, silly, serious, humorous, dog-loving, caring, simple and fun.

Proudest moment as a chef: As a child, I remember watching Saturday-morning cooking shows on PBS rather than cartoons. I'd watch Julia Child, Martin Yan and Graham Kerr, before he, well, you know... Anyway, nine or ten years ago, I had the opportunity to cook a dinner at Beringer Vineyards, where Julia Child was one of the hosts. This was shortly before she died, but even at her age, she was still firing off her witty comments and downing wine. It was a great honor to meet someone with a personality as big as hers, and the fact that really amazing chefs like Bradley Ogden and Thomas Keller were there, too, made it even more worthwhile. I remember being shocked at having been invited to cook with all of these huge, superstar chefs.

Best food city in America: Seattle. I used to work there, and I was challenged by so many things, including the people who live there; they're really knowledgeable about food. I constantly had to come up with creative new ways of doing things, because that's what our customers wanted -- they wanted creativity. I was always challenged by my peers, and I loved that there were so many local ingredients so close within my reach. And, damn, the seafood is good, especially the Dungeness crab.

Favorite restaurant in America: I can't possibly answer that. I've eaten at some of the best restaurants in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Miami, Atlanta and many other top food cities, and to limit myself to just one favorite restaurant wouldn't be fair. I see you aren't satisfied with that answer. Oh, fine, if I had to pick one restaurant -- since you're forcing me to choose a favorite -- I'd have to say Aqua in San Francisco. Everything you look for in a great dining experience was exceeded: the food, ambience and service. We were dressed really casually, and yet we were treated just as well as all those moneyed brokers who were seated around us.

Best recent food find: The braised-lamb gyro from Gastro Cart at 18th and Curtis. Man, that thing is delicious.

Rules of conduct in your kitchen: I used to be really firm, almost Napoleonic, but I got bitten in the butt once, so I've mellowed. Now I'm more about having fun and just getting the job done. But I do have a few quirky rules: The doilies can't be turned upside down, and no one is allowed to stack more than one doily on a plate; whoever takes the last paper towel had better put a new paper towel roll in; and there's a right and wrong side to our housemade potato chips -- they can't be turned upside down. Am I neurotic? Yes.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson