New Orleans Hosts Seafood Cook-Off

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal challenges the nation’s chefs to a cook-off

Chefs from around the U.S. battle it out to cook the best seafood at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and the organizers of the ninth annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off are challenging each state to send its top chef to New Orleans, where the finest seafood chef in America will be crowned August 4.

Since the first Great American Seafood Cook-Off took place in 2004, the event has attracted celebrity chefs and up-and-coming culinary stars. This year’s contenders include Melissa Bouchard of DiMillo’s On the Water in Maine, Nico Chaize at Nico's at Pier 38 in Hawaii, Glen Clark of Palace Casino Resort in Mississippi, Keith Frentz of LOLA in Louisiana, and Matt Gallaher of Executive Residence in Tennessee.

For the competition, chefs use domestic seafood from sustainable fisheries. Many states, like Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, hold their own cook-offs in the spring and early summer to find the best chef to represent their state.

Other chefs confirmed to participate include David Gaydeski of Executive Mansion in North Carolina, Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen's Kitchen in Texas, Gregory Gourdet of Departure in Oregon, Demetrios Haronis of Tropicana in New Jersey, Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club in Alabama, and Kevin Luque of Kingston Resorts in South Carolina.

John Besh of Restaurant August in New Orleans won the first The Great American Seafood Cook-Off in 2004 with pan-roasted Louisiana blackfish with corn, crab, and caviar. The 2011 Cook-Off crown went to Jim Smith, executive chef of the Alabama Governor’s Mansion, who prepared a dish entitled Late Summer Alabama Bounty, which featured Gulf shrimp and blue crab.

Each year, the competition features all new chefs, ensuring a different winner each year. A panel of judges will determine a cook-off winner from the contestants, who also include Irv Miller of Jackson’s Steakhouse in Florida, Christopher Vane of Crush in Alaska, James White of Final Cut Steakhouse in Kansas, and Luke Wholey of Wild Alaskan Grille in Pennsylvania.

This year’s judges include chef Joho of Everest and Paris Club in Chicago and Brasserie Jo in Boston and Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas and chef Johnny Nunn of Ringside Steak House and Ringside Fish House in Portland, Ore.

In addition to the pros, the Great American Seafood Cook-Off organizers have also joined with 4-H for a youth-oriented cook-off to be held August 5 with 4-H’ers from across the U.S., including South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The young chefs must detail their dish’s nutritional information and present seafood dishes totaling 500 or fewer calories.

Lauren Mack is the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.