GULF SHORES, Ala. (WBRC) - This month marks the tenth anniversary of the launch of a program designed to promote Alabama Gulf Coast Seafood. The event was marked by the Gulf Coast Seafood Cook-Off at the Lodge at Gulf State Park, an event and a celebration which is Absolutely Alabama.
Ten years ago, here on the Gulf Coast we met a man named Chris Blakenship. He had a vision of bringing awareness of the great Alabama Gulf Coast Seafood to the people of our state. “It’s really been great to bring all the chefs and all the distributors and the retailers all together to help promote this seafood and to carry this fine product so people can get it all over the state. To go from a brand-new brand that we created ten years ago to the brand recognition that it has now kind of shows the following that we’ve built and how people enjoy the seafood,” says Blakenship, now Commissioner of The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Scott Simpson came this year as a judge. He was the winner of last year’s Seafood Cook-Off. Seven years ago, he brought the rising tide of Gulf Coast Seafood to his Depot Restaurant in Auburn,
“We wanted to make it showcase the best of Alabama Gulf Coastal Cuisine up in the Plains and wanted to do it with a worldly flair.”
Jason Burnett is here as a judge as well, but he’s first and foremost a lover of the flavors from The Gulf. “With what’s going on with farmed oysters on The Gulf Coast, especially here in Alabama, it’s hard to beat a good farm raised ray oyster and there are so many places here where you can get them almost straight out of the water, and they don’t even need a squirt of lemon on them. Just right out of the shell.”
As Chef Sam Adams notes, the seafood and all the other fresh pairings which go along with it make this a special time of year. “Once tomatoes and corn hit you can start focusing on being as fresh as possible and as clean as possible, bright flavors you don’t get to see during your winter months really. So once that first spring onion comes in or that first cherry tomato it’s like, finally something to work with.”
The event was a celebration for the chefs, their creations, and just as importantly the people who harvest the fresh seafood for our tables.
“No doubt that it’s very labor intensive and it’s a premium product and it has a premium price but,” Blakenship adds with a smile. “It sure does taste good!”
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