It’s never been done before.
But on Saturday, August 11, Alabama could become the first state to produce back-to-back champions at the ninth annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off (GASCO), sponsored by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.
The event, which takes place every year in New Orleans, La., brings chefs from across the nation (only one per state) to compete in a cooking competition that emphasizes inventive culinary creations featuring seafood that are native to each chef’s home state.
In 2011, the state of Alabama was represented well by Chef Jim Smith, the executive chef of the Alabama Governor’s Mansion, who took home the top prize thanks to a dish called “Late Summer Alabama Bounty” that featured sous vide shrimp and marinated crab straight from Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
The 2012 GASCO will be the fourth straight year that Alabama was chosen to compete. Previous chefs include Chef Wesley True of Mobile and Chef Zach Compton of Orange Beach.
This year, the reigning champion state couldn’t ask for a better contender to represent their seafood.
Chef Chris Hastings, owner/chef of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club, is one of the state’s most popular chefs. And recently, he’s been making headlines across the country: in February, Hastings defeated Chef Bobby Flay on Food Network’s “Iron Chef America,” and he also took home the prestigious James Beard Award for “Best Chef of the South” in 2012.
For this year’s GASCO competition, Hastings will be preparing one of his signature dishes: Alabama Bouillabaisse. This seafood feast, which draws inspiration from his boyhood days of gathering seafood for family dinners, will feature oysters, shrimp, soft-shell crab, red snapper and triggerfish.
“I’m extremely excited to be representing our state and showcasing the beautiful seafood that comes from our waters,” said Hastings. “The dish developed incorporates quality products and makes for an interesting and delicious dish.”
Hastings will be competing against 13 other chefs from as far away as Maine, Alaska and Hawaii in hopes of making Alabama the first GASCO repeat champion and only the third state to bring home the top prize more than once (both Florida and Louisiana have produced winning chefs on two occasions).
The winner will be announced the evening of August 11.