St. Charles Herald-Guide

Are you ready?

From staff and wire reports - July 11, 2007

Top chefs representing 20 American states will gather in New Orleans on Aug. 4 and 5 to compete in the 2007 Great American Seafood Cook-Off presented by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco recently asked each of her fellow governors to appoint an executive chef and an assistant to represent his or her state in the competition. To date, 17 states have replied including Alabama, Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Wyoming. A chef will also compete on behalf of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead sponsor of the cook-off.

“The Great American Seafood Cook-Off has grown in popularity each year and we’re thrilled to be a part of this meaningful event,” said Bill Hogarth of NOAA.

“Through their participation, each of these chefs will help raise awareness of the importance of cooking with domestic seafood and they will also encourage the use of products from sustainable fisheries.”

For the first time, the Great American Seafood Cook-Off will be open to the public and consist of two days of cooking.

On Saturday, Aug. 4, all participating chefs will be invited to create elaborate dishes using domestic seafood. In many cases, the chefs will prepare dishes that feature seafood native to their state. A panel of judges will name the top finishers from Saturday who will go on to compete on Sunday.

“Saturday the chefs will produce dishes that best display their incredible talents and creativity,” said Ewell Smith, executive producer of the cook-off and executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Board.

“On Sunday, Aug. 5, the top finishers will be tasked with creating dishes that home chefs can easily replicate. They’ll be judged on taste and creativity and also on ease of preparation.”

Prior winners of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off include Justin Timineri, executive chef for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Randy Evans of Brennan’s of Houston, and John Besh of Restaurant August in New Orleans. Besh, a James Beard award winner, will host the 2007 cook-off.

A team of notables from the culinary world will judge the event, which will occur at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans during the Louisiana Foodservice Expo.

Tickets for the cook-off will be sold at the door and proceeds will be split evenly between the Back to the Dock program, which aids fishermen as they rebuild after the hurricanes of 2005, and the Louisiana Restaurant Association's Education Foundation that provides scholarships to up and coming culinary students.

Current sponsors include NOAA, Shell Oil, Tabasco, Southwest Cargo, Whole Foods Market, McCormick, National Fisheries Institute, Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation, Texas Shrimp, Maryland Seafood, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Coastal Living Magazine, Seafood Business Magazine, Wild Catch Magazine, Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine, Culinary Concierge Magazine, Loubat Food Service Equipment, Louisiana Restaurant Association and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.