Great American Seafood Cook-Off Unveils Panel of Judges

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Renowned Chefs and Culinary Media to Oversee Annual Competition

Producers of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off have confirmed the judge’s panel for this year’s event, which is set to occur on Saturday, August 11, 2012 in New Orleans. This summer will mark the Cook-Off’s ninth year.

Each year, a group of discriminating culinary experts is selected to critique the seafood dishes that are prepared by competing chefs from around the United States. Judges for the 2012 Great American Seafood Cook-Off include:

Chef Joho of Everest and Paris Club in Chicago, Brasserie Jo in Boston and Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas; Chef Johnny Nunn of Portland, OR’s Ringside Steak House and Ringside Fish House); Liz Grossman, managing editor of Plate Magazine; Ron Ruggless Bureau Chief at Nation’s Restaurant News, Vicki Wellington, vice president and publisher of Food Network Magazine, and Sam Rauch, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“This is a terrific and truly diverse panel of judges and I look forward to welcoming them to New Orleans to assess the domestic seafood dishes that will be prepared by some of our nations best and fastest rising chefs,” said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and the creator of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off.

The Great American Seafood Cook-Off is the most prestigious seafood cooking competition in the country. The first Cook-Off took place in the summer of 2004 and the event has attracted celebrity chefs and up-and-coming culinary stars ever since. Sponsored by NOAA, the competition celebrates domestic seafood and encourages the use of product from sustainable fisheries.

“NOAA has been involved from the start, and I am thrilled to see the event become bigger and bigger each year,” said Sam Rauch, Acting Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries, a long-time supporter of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off. “The event has been highly effective in raising awareness of the value of our domestic fisheries, and it displays the skills of our country’s most talented seafood chefs.”

John Besh won the first The Great American Seafood Cook-Off in 2004 with a dish of 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” that featured Gulf Shrimp and Blue Crab.

This year, Great American Seafood Cook-Off organizers have joined with 4-H to arrange for a youth-oriented Cook-Off that will occur on in the same arena on Sunday, August 12. The Youth organization is working to send 4-H’ers from a number of states, including South Carolina, Oklahoma and Arkansas, to display their culinary skills. 4-H will require its young chefs to detail nutritional information and present seafood dishes totaling 500 or fewer calories.

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is the chief sponsor of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off and uses the event to highlight to American seafood consumers the agency’s management of the Nation’s marine ecosystems. Chefs who think they have what it takes to represent their home state at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off should visit for information.

Previous winners of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off include:

2011 – Jim Smith, Alabama Governor’s Mansion
2010 – Dean Max, 3030 Ocean, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
2009 – Tory McPhail, Commander’s Palace, New Orleans, LA
2008 – John Currence, City Grocery, Oxford, MS
2007 – Tim Thomas, Ocean Forest Golf Club, Sea Island, GA
2006 – Justin Timineri, Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services
2005 – Randy Evans, Brennan’s of Houston, Houston, TX
2004 – John Besh, Restaurant August, New Orleans, LA


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Richard Shea
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