The third time was the charm for Chef Scott Simpson at the 2021 Alabama Seafood Cook-Off.
After competing in the last two ASCO events—including a runner-up finish in 2018—Chef Simpson finally found himself in the winner’s circle. Representing The Depot in Auburn, Chef Simpson’s team impressed the judges with his recipe, which featured both Yellow Edge Grouper and Gulf Shrimp.
After postponing last year’s event, the 6th annual ASCO went off without a hitch. Spectators were gathered at the open-air competition hosted by The Lodge at Gulf State Park, and thanks to WSFA 12 News in Montgomery and event emcee Martie Duncan, seafood fans from all over the state and beyond were able to tune in to a live stream and watch the chefs cook.
Chef Simpson and his assistant, Morgan McWaters, have plenty of culinary experience between them. But when it came down to Chef Simpson’s winning recipe, they caught a bit of magic when making the dish.
“Tonight was the first time we’d ever made the whole dish together,” said Simpson. “We cook together all the time, and the recipe and everything, I’m comfortable cooking it. Next time we get a chance to compete, I’m going to make sure I dial everything in a little tighter just a few minutes.”
Chef Simpson’s next competition will be on the national stage in August as he represents Alabama in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans. Although every ASCO winner has competed in the GASCO, Alabama hasn’t brought home the top prize since Chef Jim Smith, current chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, won in 2011.
“I’ve done a lot of competitions before, but I’ve never really represented a place like Alabama,” said Simpson. “It means so much to me at this stage of my career. Being a co-owner and chef of my first restaurant, after so many years of working for other people, it kind of validates my passion for cooking.”
Joining Chef Simpson in this year’s competition were two more ASCO veterans in Chef Brandon Burleson of Sparta Academy in Evergreen, who was the runner-up this year in his second ASCO, and Chef Kelly Grady Hargroves of Wind Creek Hotel & Casino in Montgomery, who competed in the 2017 ASCO. Rounding out the competitors this year was one newcomer in Chef Michael Andrzejewski of Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina.
"The Alabama Seafood Cook-Off was a great success, bringing together chefs from across the state to celebrate Alabama Seafood," said Smith. "Chef Scott Simpson's dish was a perfect example of how special Alabama can be. He will be an excellent representative for Alabama Seafood going forward."
We truly missed hosting the ASCO last summer, so gathering together with great people and great food in beautiful Gulf Shores was truly wonderful. Thank you to everyone who attended and tuned in!