Update 11/9/15: Chef Chris Sherrill had a very successful trip to Kissimmee. He won the judges’ choice and people’s choice awards during the Culinary Fight Club event, won the Florida Chef Challenge, and placed 3rd overall in the World Food Championships seafood category. Well done, Chris, and thank you for representing us so well!
Here on Alabama’s Coast, we’ll put our fresh Gulf seafood up against any seafood in the world.
This week, Chef Chris Sherrill of the Flora-Bama Yacht Club is doing just that at the World Food Championships in Kissimmee, Florida.
After qualifying at the Zatarain’s Restaurant Challenge at the 2015 National Shrimp Festival, Sherrill will be showcasing that same dish on an international stage.
Sherrill’s Shrimp Fest dish had to meet a few requirements. First of all, it being the Shrimp Fest, the dish had to feature Alabama Gulf Shrimp. And with Zatarain’s as a sponsor, at least one Zatarain’s product had to be featured as well.
Knowing good products when he sees ‘em, Sherrill didn’t use just one Zatarain’s item—he used eight.
In fact, it was Sherrill’s metal detecting hobby that helped him create this dish. While digging for lost treasure, he hit a sassafras root—and then decided to use Zatarain’s Root Beer Extract to make a root beer coleslaw for his blackened Gulf shrimp tacos dish.
“Shrimp are kind of a tough thing to compete with because they taste so good in their simplest form,” Sherrill said of his dish. “So this year, we decided to do something really different.”
To separate himself from the pack even more, Sherrill used crispy Asian-style pre-rolled wonton skins as the shells for his shrimp tacos, rather than corn tortillas.
Now, his Shrimp Fest winner will be put to the ultimate test—against 31 other distinguished seafood chefs at the World Food Championships.
The WFC is quite a large event. From November 3 through 10, more than 450 chefs from all over the globe will compete in 10 different categories for their shot at the top prize of $100,000.
During the competition, each chef will be asked to cook his or her contest-winning dish that earned them a spot at the WFC. Then, they’ll be asked to compete in a new challenge.
For Sherrill and the other seafood competitors, they’ll be tasked with concocting their best interpretation of a broth.
Thankfully, Sherrill’s got a delicious-sounding idea ready to go: a ginger lemongrass stone crab broth that’ll be paired with an Asian-style noodle made out of local kudzu.
Additionally, Sherrill and his team will be cooking a miso-brushed underutilized fish, likely a Sheepshead or Bearded Brotula sourced by Johnny Caradine at Steel City Seafood in Birmingham.
“We’re trying to be very local-minded, very sustainable,” said Sherrill. “All of our product will come from an Alabama or Florida farm. Very localized and promoting what the Flora-Bama’s all about.”
For the competition, Sherrill will be bringing along his sous chef, Haikel Harris, who was with him for the Shrimp Fest competition. Additionally, since the chefs are allowed to bring one more team member, Sherrill is bringing along his wife Jenny as the team captain.
“I’ve surrounded myself with very good, organized people,” Sherrill said. “They keep me motivated and fired up.”
And if Sherrill does take home the top prize? He’s already got a plan in place to donate the prize money to a handful of local charities, including a small donation to his own NUISANCE Group, a newly formed organization that aims at promoting and showcasing underutilized Gulf fish.
But at the end of the day, for Sherrill and his team, it’s all about showing the world just how good Alabama Gulf Seafood is.
“For me, it’s all about the ambassadorship and promoting the Gulf of Mexico and everything we’re about, and showcasing what’s awesome about the Alabama Gulf Coast especially,” Sherrill said. “We want to shine and prove to the world that we’ve got a great thing going on down here.”