Cook-off shines light on Louisiana seafood

Chefs from Alaska to Virginia served up their best seafood dishes in New Orleans Saturday. Chef Terry White of Florida was crowned king in the 11th annual Great American Seafood Cook-off at the convention center. He served up country ham crusted gulf cobia with spiny lobster gyoza.

More than four years after the BP Gulf Oil Spill, the cook-off shines a light on one of Louisiana's best assets.

From sizzling shrimp to all sorts of fish and other seafood mixed with fresh ingredients, 19 chefs from across America turned a corner of the convention center into a kitchen, serving up their best seafood dishes in the Great American Seafood Cook-off. Actor Anthony Anderson was one of the event hosts.

Some like the chef from Texas brought fan clubs with them. "Some of us are from Texas, the lower Rio Grande Valley real close to the Gulf of Mexico, and I'm from Irving, Texas and we have people from Grand Prairie," said Rene Pena.

Chef Aaron Burgau with Patois in New Orleans represented Louisiana. "I did a pan seared grouper with shrimp and okra and a sweet corn sabayon," said Burgau.

The only female competitor traveled all the way from Alaska. "We did a homemade raman noodle with a sockeye salmon. We marinated some shrimp and smoked some sable fish and we also made a king crab beignet," explained Mandy Dixon.

"All the eyes are on New Orleans with the reps coming in from all over America to cook and put the emphasis on Gulf seafood," said Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.

Dardenne says he's seen a tremendous turnaround, in a good way, as far as perception of Louisiana seafood four years after the BP Gulf oil spill disaster. "People are not concerned as much, if any, about the quality of seafood coming out of the Gulf or the abundance of seafood coming out of the Gulf," said Dardenne.

"It (Gulf seafood) looks beautiful. It tastes awesome," said Burgau. That's been the goal of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board to get a positive message out about one of Louisiana's best assets.

"We've been eating our way through New Orleans," explained Dixon.

Her first trip to Louisiana, Chef Dixon wants to experience everything New Orleans. She said, "the seafood, the amazing seafood.. amazing spices, and the gumbo and the beignets." And many hope, she'll tell everyone she knows back home in Alaska about Louisiana seafood.

Lt. Gov. Dardenne says the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board has about $8 million in BP money to spend on seafood marketing in the next few years.

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