Restaurant owners worry flooding could raise seafood prices

BILOXI, MS (AP) - Some coast chefs say they'll keep serving Gulf seafood, even if flooding from the Mississippi River means rising prices. State officials worry the shrimp and oyster industry could suffer once fresh water is pushed into the Mississippi Sound and the effect could trickle down to your dinner table.

We caught up with some local chefs as they prepared their signature dishes at a Mississippi Development Authority conference in Biloxi.

"I think we need to encourage every person to eat more locally and nothing better than the seafood that we have," said Culinary Learning Center Instructor Gerald Quick.

"Local and fresh is always the best," Chef Danie of Capone's Ristorante in Ocean Springs said. "It's always going to taste better. And we always have this fresh seafood available here. Why not use it? Why would you want to bring seafood in when we have so much of it in the Gulf? So that's what we've always used."

As the coast tries move past negative publicity from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, restaurant owners say we may face a new challenge involving the law of supply and demand.

"If it costs us more, we, in turn, have to charge more on the menu," said Chef Danie. "That makes some customers not want to buy as much seafood. But we'll still buy local and we'll still buy fresh, just because it's so much better. But I hope it doesn't affect the price that much."

"Just with the oysters, I think right now, is the biggest concern," said Patrick Heim, Executive Chef at Oak Crest Mansion in Pass Christian. "They shut down a few of those oyster beds. But we're getting to where we're in summer months now. Oysters aren't really plentiful during this time anyway, so hopefully we'll have a chance to recover."

Visitors say they and their taste buds are ready to savor more Gulf seafood. Burnadette Lawson came down from Jackson for the Procurement Opportunities Conference and Trade Fair.

"The seafood, there is nothing wrong with it. I've been enjoying it," Lawson said.

State officials say it will likely take years for oyster reefs to recover from the damaging impact of freshwater.

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