On the Gulf Coast Wednesday, May 1, The Depot Executive Chef Scott Simpson is simmering fish and creating a new seafood dish at the fifth annual Alabama Seafood Cook-Off.
“It’s a really nice event,” Simpson said. “There’s music and everything else. It’s a big gathering of people from the industry as well as fans.”
After placing second during his first year in the competition last year, Simpson said he is ready for this year.
There are high expectations at the competition. With between 300 to 400 attendees, there’s a lot to take in as Simpson prepares his dish in the strict hour-long time limit as he answers interview questions all along the way.
Four chefs from around the state will compete in a kitchen setup in the Bayou La Batre Community Center in Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Simpson will bring The Depot sous chef Adam Beckel to assist him in the competition.
“I think I learned a lot the first year,” Simpson said. “I think the event has grown and also progressed. The competition and the quality and caliber of the range of competitors.”
In order to qualify for the competition Simpson had to send in a recipe that he would then create at the competition. He created a new dish called Ala-Bammy.
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The dish is a play on traditional Jamaican cassava flatbread. Simpson will use a seared Alabama Permit local chili pepper, okra and simmered coconut rundown over a sweet potato and Gulf Shrimp to create the dish.
The fish is a white fish that is similar in texture and taste to pompano fish. He chose this fish as a way to promote sustainability, Simpson said.
Simpson is a James Beard Smart Catch leader. It is an effort to educate chefs on sustainable seafood and how to provide their diners with it as more than 90 percent of the world's fisheries either fully or over fished, according to the organization.
“I tried to select a fish that is under-utilized,” Simpson said. “I thought that would be exciting for the public to see this fish and kind of realize its versatility and its usefulness.”
This year’s judges include chef Jim Smith, chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, chef Jeremy Downey, 2018 ASCO champion and owner of Bistro V in Birmingham, Jason Burnett, founding editor of MyRecipes.com and Oyster-Obsession.com, and David Holloway, food writer and enthusiast.
The winner will represent Alabama in the 16th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans in August as well as automatically qualify for the 2019 World Food Championships in Dallas, Texas, in October.
These competitions are important because they promote local seafood and the industry as a whole, Simpson said.
“Right now, on the national culinary scene, they’re definitely starting to promote the healthy aspect of seafood,” Simpson said. “It’s starting to be a nationwide push toward people eating that on a more regular business.”
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