The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board recently announced the selection of 12 chefs from across the state to represent their areas in the 15th Annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. Among the chefs is one local competitor – Chef Ryan Gaudet of Spahr’s Seafood in Des Allemands – vying to take the crown of king of Louisiana Seafood.
“With so many chefs in Louisiana to choose from, it was hard to narrow it down to just twelve competitors,” Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser said. “There is no doubt judging dishes this year will be more difficult than ever before. In Louisiana, good food is just part of what connects us to our diverse heritage and seafood is a big part of that. From recipes passed down through generations to the culinary creations of our state’s chefs, seafood has developed a culinary identity for Louisiana unlike any other state. That’s the main reason for events like the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. It’s a chance to celebrate the great contribution of our chefs, and our hard-working seafood industry, make in Louisiana that truly Feed Your Soul.”
Born and raised in Thibodaux, Gaudet started cooking at home at the age of 13. He embarked on his 26-year career as a dishwasher at Flanagan’s in Thibodaux, and continued working for other local restaurants around the Lafourche and Terrebonne bayous until he later graduated from the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University in 2005. Gaudet apprenticed for several restaurants in the Chicago area, most notably Moto under the late Omar Cantu. He is the people’s choice award winner for the 2015 Louisiana Restaurant Association’s Bayou Chapter Culinary Showcase.
Gaudet is now the Executive Chef for Spahr’s Seafood, managing the operations of three Spahr’s units located in Galliano, Thibodaux, and Des Allemands. He also runs Malt and Burger, an old school drive-in burger and shake joint in Thibodaux. His newest venture – a seafood market located next to Spahr’s Des Allemands location – should be open in a few months.
Gaudet said he was honored to be included in this year’s competition – especially since this year’s contest had a record number of applicants.
“I’m humbled that I was selected to compete this year,” he said. “It’s a little prideful to know you made the selection process, because they really do their research in the selection process.”
This year’s Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off is being held on June 7 at the Cajundome Convention Center in Lafayette, the city said to have more restaurants per capita than any other American city. Many of the restaurants that have helped earn that distinction will be serving samples to spectators as a part of the Taste of EatLafayette, which will take place in conjunction with the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. Gaudet said the competition is open to the public.
“It’s an exciting thing to watch,” he said. “It gets pretty intense when the clock starts ticking down … the most intense part of the competition is the timing aspect of it.”
This is the fourth time Gaudet has participated in the competition – once he was an assistant and this will be the third time he is the lead chef.
“There’s other states out there that have their own unique seafood, but this competition really puts Louisiana on the map,” he said.
Chef Edgar “Dooky” Chase IV and Celeste Chachere, great-granddaughter of Tony Chachere, will be among the judges deciding the 2022 King or Queen of Louisiana Seafood.
To be eligible to compete, a chef must be the executive chef of a free-standing Louisiana restaurant belonging to the Louisiana Restaurant Association.
In addition to earning the title of king or queen of Louisiana Seafood, the winner will represent the state at a variety of events including the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, hosted by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and held in New Orleans during the Louisiana Restaurant Association Showcase on Aug. 6.
Other chefs that will be competing are Ryan Cashio with LaPlace’s Cajun House & Catering, Amanda Cusey with The Villa Harlequin in Lake Charles, Russell Davis with Baton Rouge’s Eliza Restaurant & Bar and JED’S Local Louisiana Po’boys, David Dickensauge with Tsunami in Baton Rouge, Ben Fidelak with Mariner’s Restaurant in Natchitoches, Kyle Hudson with Beausoleil Coastal Cuisine in Baton Rouge, Karlos Knott with Bayou Teche Brewing & Cajun Saucer in Arnaudville, Brett Monteleone with Junior’s on Harrison in New Orleans, Amy Sin with Langlois in New Orleans, Joshua Spell with Fezzo’s Seafood Steakhouse & Oyster Bar in Crowley and Grant Wallace with Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse in New Orleans.
“What differentiates Louisiana from our Gulf neighbors is the access we have to an abundance of seafood,” President and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association Stan Harris said. “Louisiana seafood is part of our identity and culture. The LASCO event allows our amazing culinary talent to create dishes that anyone would be proud to enjoy, and that draw people into our state to know why we’re so different.”
For more information about the cook-off, visit www.louisianaseafood.com.