It’s that time of year again. Folks who live for the summer are packing up their swimsuits, cutting off the AC and gearing up for the wintertime.
But for oyster fans, it’s a thrill to finally get back to the months with the letter “r” in them. And The Hangout in Gulf Shores is celebrating once again with their 5th Annual Oyster Cook-Off.
On the morning of Nov. 3, Forty+ master chefs and backyard grillmasters alike will gather on the beach to try their hand at serving up the best oysters of the day while seafood lovers congregate to sample the competition. Each team will compete in the three main categories—Rockefeller, Cajun, and create your own raw oyster—to be judged by a panel of culinary experts. There will also be a People’s Choice Champion for the best oyster of the day, as determined by the general public.
The event is free to the public, and tickets can be purchased for sampling the oysters. There will also be a free Pre-Party event at 7 p.m. on Nov. 2 where the public is invited to The Hangout to meet some of the participating chefs and listen to live music.
This year’s competition is adding up to be the most star-studded yet. Leading the cavalcade of celebrities is Alabama native Martie Duncan, one of the Season 8 finalists of Food Network’s “ Food Network Star.” Duncan will be bringing plenty of star power to help her out, including Michele Ragussis, Nikki Martin, Emily Ellyn, and Linkie Marais.
Several decorated veterans of the state-wide and regional culinary scene will also be in attendance. James Beard Award nominees Chef Wesley True and Chef James Boyce will be representing Montgomery and Huntsville, respectively. In addition, Orange Beach’s Chris Sherrill and Mobile’s Alec Naman, both of whom were selected to participate in BP’s Spirit of the Gulf event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, as well as Chef Jim Smith, Governor Bentley’s Executive Chef and winner of the 2011 Great American Seafood Cook-Off, will be in attendance.
For these heralded chefs, the Oyster Cook-Off isn’t just another day at the office; it’s a chance to show off their culinary creativity in hopes of bringing home a few prizes.
“I simply love Gulf seafood, especially oysters,” said True. “While I enjoy oysters with a good cocktail sauce and saltine cracker, they are much more versatile than that. The flavor of pure sea on an oyster is great to pair with other natural ingredients.”
Sherrill takes a similarly cautious approach with his oyster recipes. “It’s hard to improve on a perfect raw oyster,” he said, “but we’re big on tall presentation and using the shell to its fullest capacity and adding things to the oyster to make it a two-bite appetizer.”
Each team will be competing to win over $10,000 worth of cash and prizes (including tickets to next year’s Hangout Music Festival). Prizes will be awarded to the winners of each category, the People’s Choice Champion, the Shucking Champion, best booth, and the overall winning team.
But the Oyster Cook-Off isn’t just about the chefs—after all, somebody has to eat all those oysters. For oyster lovers who feel like chowing down without doing all the work, tickets can be purchased to sample each team’s oysters. And with college football on the big screens and live music from The Banditos, LF Knighton and The Soul Rebels Brass Band, it’ll be the perfect way to party before the cold weather officially settles in.
To see a full list of restaurants and chefs participating and for more information, click here.