Story and Photos by Dwight Casimere
The Louisiana Superdome, site of more Super Bowl NFL Championship games than any other venue, was the fitting location for New Orleans’ greatest chefs to compete in the Louisiana Seafood Cook-off. The contest, sponsored by Louisiana Seafood, is the focal point of the final Grand Tasting of the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience and is designed to call attention to the Louisiana seafood industry. With the Gulf Oil spill continuing to threaten the livelihood of fishermen who depend on that industry to a living, this year’s contest had an especially poignant undertone.
Among those competing for bragging rights for the year were Executive Chef Anthony Spizale of the Rib Room located at the Royal Orleans hotel in the French Quarter and Chef Tom Wolf of Maximo’s New Orleans and Minh Le of Houma. Tony McPhail, Executive Chef at Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans culinary landmark, walked off with top honors with the winning recipe for Louisiana Seafood Grill.
Watching the prep and cooking was a gallery of spectators, munching on menu samples and sipping wine from the nearly 100 food stations around the perimeter of the Superdome. As the steam rose from the makeshift kitchens of the competing chefs, the crowd in the gallery began to build. Celebrity Chef Paul Deen flew in from the ‘low country’ of Savannah, Georgia to declare the winner along with New Orleans Favorite Culinary Son, Chef John Besh. Both are past winners of the competition.
The judges had a difficult time picking the winner. One can only envy their daunting task of having to taste the best that New Orleans and Louisiana has to offer to declare a winner.