With only a handful of weeks until the 3rd annual Alabama Seafood Cook-Off—which will return to The Wharf in Orange Beach on June 26—the finalists have been selected.
This year’s contenders include Chef Bryan Cates of Kitchen on George in Mobile, Chef Kelly Grady Hargroves of Wind Creek Casino & Hotel in Montgomery, Chef Brody Olive of Voyager’s Restaurant at Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, and Chef Jason Ramirez of Villaggio Grille in Orange Beach.
Chef Olive will be competing for the third year in a row after being named ASCO runner-up in 2015 and 2016. Chef Cates, Chef Hargroves, and Chef Ramirez will all be competing for the first time.
This year’s winner will go on to represent Alabama in the 2017 Great American Seafood Cook-Off (GASCO) in New Orleans. Additionally, the ASCO winner will also be an automatic qualifier for the 2017 World Food Championships to be held at The Wharf in November.
The judges for this year’s competition will include John McMillian, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries; Chef Jim Smith, executive chef for the State of Alabama, 2011 GASCO champion, and chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission (ASMC); Chef Josh Quick, executive chef of Odette and 2016 ASCO champion; Jason Burnett, founding editor of MyRecipes.com and Oyster Obsession; and David Holloway, food writer for Alabama Media Group. Returning this year as our emcee will be Martie Duncan, former Food Network Star finalist and creator of Martie Knows Parties.
In order to narrow down this year’s submissions, these judges were assisted by four former GASCO contenders in Chef Chris Hastings, James Beard Award winner and executive chef and owner of Hot and Hot Fish Club and Ovenbird; Chef Rob McDaniel, James Beard Award semifinalist and executive chef and general manager at SpringHouse; Chef David Bancroft, James Beard Award semifinalist and executive chef and partner at Acre; and Chef George Reis, 2015 ASCO champion and owner and executive chef of Ocean and 5 Point Public House Oyster Bar. Also helping select this year’s finalists were Chris Blankenship, deputy commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and program administrator for the ASMC, and Chef Chris Sherrill, executive chef of Flora-Bama Yacht Club and co-founder of the NUISANCE Group.
“We had several really great entries for the Alabama Seafood Cook-Off this year,” said Blankenship. “The selection committee agonized over the recipes to select the four finalists. I am very excited for the quality of chefs in the Cook-Off, and I can’t wait to taste their imaginative dishes.”
As in previous years, chef teams (lead chef plus one assistant) will be judged by the same five criteria that the GASCO abides by: presentation, general impression and serving methods; creativity and practicality; composition and harmony of ingredients; correct preparation and craftsmanship; and flavor, taste and texture.
We’re proud to share a home with so many talented chefs, and we’re looking forward to seeing their culinary skills on display this summer. Stay tuned for more details!