Texas takes first place again at seafood cook-off

Johnny Morgan  |  8/9/2016 9:12:41 PM

(08/09/16) NEW ORLEANS – For the second year in a row, Texas took first place in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off: 4-H Edition at the Morial Convention Center.

Their winning dish, Texas Shrimp Kabobs, overpowered South Carolina’s Fresh Shrimp and Crab Perlou, Mississippi’s Back Bay Cioppino, Arkansas’ Seafood Lasagna and Louisiana’s Blackened Alligator.

During the competition, each team was given one hour to prepare their dish using American seafood.

In keeping with the National 4-H Healthy Living initiative, the rules required each dish to be less than 750 calories per serving, said LSU AgCenter agent Quincy Cheek, who coordinated the program for Louisiana 4-H, the host organization.

“The purpose of this cook-off is to bring 4-H youth from all over together to compete and to learn more about seafood and its sustainability,” Cheek said. “It also allows them to bring in agricultural products from their states and lets them learn about that.”

Another goal of the competition is to help participants learn about food safety, an important issue in the restaurant business and even at home, she said.

The competition also has a workforce component because the participants are high school students who may be in search of possible careers.

The 4-H competition is patterned after and conducted in the same venue as the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, which pits professional chefs from across the United States against one another to prepare their best dish using domestic seafood products.

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board holds the professional event annually in New Orleans through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In addition to cooking, each 4-H team was required to present their plates to the judges and describe the ingredients and the preparation techniques.

Louisiana 4-H Foundation executive director Patrick Tuck sees the event as a way to put the 4-H’ers beside professional chefs so they get a feel for what’s involved in the industry.

“Just like all 4-H events, it’s not just the judging, but it’s all of the preparation, the coaching and the counseling that’s a part of it,” he said.

Judges for the competition were Brent Fountain, professor of nutrition at Mississippi State University; Johnene Breaux, from New Orleans, who is a graduate of the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University; Michael-Ann Rowe, an Emmy Award-Winning television personality and producer of the PBS series Off the Beaten Palate; and Chef Michael Brewer of Mannings Restaurant in New Orleans and the 2015 “King of Louisiana Seafood.”

The sponsors were the Louisiana 4-H Foundation, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, Whole Foods and the National 4-H Council, Cheek said.

The winning team received a $1,000 cash award from the Louisiana 4-H Foundation, and each team was given $500 by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board to cover expenses of participating in the competition. They also receive $250 gift certificates from Whole Foods.

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Winners of the Great American Seafood Cook-Off: 4-H Edition hail from Texas and were awarded a $1,000 check from the Louisiana 4-H Foundation. Pictured from left are 4-H’er Anna Welfel, Louisiana 4-H Foundation executive director Patrick Tuck, Haley Kopecki and LSU AgCenter event coordinator Quincy Cheek. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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The winning dish, Texas Shrimp Kabobs, at the 2016 Great American Seafood Cook-Off: 4-H Edition was prepared by the Texas 4-H team of Anna Welfel and Haley Kopecki. (Photo by Johnny Morgan, LSU AgCenter)

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