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Louisiana Seafood News
Louisiana Seafood News

Local and National Chefs to Compete in Two Cook-Offs This Weekend

Chefs from Louisiana and around the country will compete in two cooking competitions this weekend (Aug. 7-8) at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

The Farm to Table Chefs Taste Challenge will be held for the first time Friday, as part of the third annual Farm to Table International Conference. The Great American Seafood Cookoff, which will take place for the 12th time, is Saturday.

Chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen's and chef Matthew Farmer of Apolline are among a field of 10 chefs from around the country who specialize in fresh, healthy, sustainable ingredients that will compete in the F2T Challenge. Seasonal ingredients are being donated by state agricultural departments.

Brigtsen competed in (and almost won) one of the earliest Great American Seafood Cookoffs. The 2015 event starts at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. New Orleans chef Mike Brewer of The Sammich will represent Louisiana, after winning the state seafood competition and the berth in the national contest in May.

GASCO, as the event is acronymed, is open to the public. Tickets are $10 at the door, or $5 in advance at the Baton Rouge or New Orleans/Metairie locations of Whole Foods, or online at

GASCO is held during the Louisiana Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, which each year draws 10,000 restaurant owners, hotel food and beverage directors and other industry professionals. Although the cook-off is open to the public, only registered Expo attendees are allowed beyond the cook-off area.

Those who attend the Farm to Table Conference can also attend the Expo. Registration for the conference will be available until it ends; there are one-day, two-day or full conference packages, $60 to $130, with student rates at roughly half price. In addition, Rosalie Mortillaro of the Communications Department of the Morial Convention Center said that those who want to see the F2T keynote speaker can use a special code for a $30 ticket.

The F2T keynote speaker is Temple Grandin, an animal and autism activist, author and expert on animal behavior. The professor of animal science at Colorado State University was the focus of an award-winning semi-autobiographical 2010 HBO film, "Temple Grandin," starring Claire Danes. Grandin invented the hug box, used to calm those on the autism spectrum.

Grandin will speak at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Use code Temple15 when registering.

The conference packages do not include tickets to the Chefs Taste Challenge, which are $129 and will be available at the door or via the website.

Those tickets include 10 tasting portions (one per chef), beer, wine, and a ballot to vote for the fan favorite chef.

Mortillaro said agriculture departments from states all over the country agreed to donate products if chefs would use it.

"For example, Hawaii donated macadamia nuts and coffee," Mortillaro said. "Then we had an ingredient draft, and each chef got a number. So, Frank Brigtsen had number one. He got to pick his first choice of ingredients. He picked alligator. Then we went down the line."

Many states got in on the act: Nebraska potatoes, North Dakota red lentils, New Jersey tomatoes, plus more. And Louisiana companies donated lots. Check out the menu that details what chef contestants will cook.

*Frank Brigtsen, Brigtsen's, New Orleans: Sweet & Sour Alligator with Curried Rice Calas Griddlecake & Tabasco Peach Jam

*Craig Baker, Local Eatery & Pub, Indianapolis: Chicken & Its Lunch – Cornmeal Fried Chicken Ballottine, Three Corn Infused Porridge, Summer Squash Chow Chow, House Hot Sauce

*Rocky Durham, Santa Fe Culinary Academy, Santa Fe, N.M.: Braised Beef Shortrib Street Taco with Red Bean Refritos and Yellow Macadamia Mole

*Matthew Farmer, Apolline, New Orleans: Barbacoa Beignet with Slaw Curtido and Mayhaw Sauce

*Joshua Galliano, Companion Bakery, St. Louis: Louisiana Wild Boar, Quinoa Granola, Coffee Roasted Carrots, Persimmon Mole

*Richard Jones, Green Door Gourmet, Nashville, Tenn.: Shrimp & Grits – Ramp Butter-poached Louisiana Shrimp on Garbanzo Grits with Pickled Okra, Smoky Green Lentil Sauce Americain, Country Ham Crisp & Tabasco Butter

*Joel Navejas, The Farmhouse, Fort Collins, Colorado: Swamp & Turf – Smoked Pork & Dirty Rice Boudin Sausage, Turtle & Giblet Gravy, Ham Hock Red Lentils

*Hari Pulapaka, Cress Restaurant, DeLand, Fla.: NOLA (New Old Latin Asian) Hatch Green Chile Panna Cotta, Smoked Redfish Brandade, Redfish Swamp & Turf – Smoked Pork & Dirty Rice Boudin Sausage, Turtle & Giblet Gravy, Ham Hock Red Lentils with Ceviche, Eggplant Massaman

*Carmen Rodriguez, Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa, Lake Arrowhead, Calif.: Roasted Sweet Potato Bisque, Confit Duck Leg, Fennel, Sorghum Roasted Sunflower Seeds

*Elise Wiggins, Panzano, Denver: Crawfish & Grit Croquette.

The F2T conference is sponsored by the convention center in partnership with the SoFAB Institute and the LSU AgCenter.

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