Chefs take a bite out of oily seafood perception

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Chefs from all over the state, along with the Department of Marine Resources, are taking a bite out of the perception that Gulf seafood is unsafe by showing it off. A national cooking competition is painting a picture of Gulf seafood you have to taste to believe

"I was at an upscale restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana. And there were about six of us sitting around, all of us from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, eating shrimp cocktail. I asked the waiter, 'Did these shrimp come from the Gulf of Mexico?' And he said, 'Oh no, sir. We wouldn't do that to our customers,'" said DMR Executive Director Dr. Bill Walker.

It's that perception that seven chefs from all over Mississippi are trying to change. The chefs all competed for the title of King of Seafood in the Great Mississippi Seafood Cook-off. They presented smoked oysters, rich crab cakes, and flaky fish, all from Mississippi waters.

DMR officials hope that these tasty dishes will go straight from the plates, to the hearts of food lovers nationwide.

"We're trying to fight that perception. Convince people around the country that seafood from the Gulf of Mexico is safe. Not only safe, but good for you, and healthy. And encourage them to eat it at the levels they did before, so that our seafood industry and tourism industry can come back," said Walker.

"It's good because our culture and heritage is all about seafood. Our fisherman, our processors, our retailers, our sellers, our restaurants, even our charter boat fishermen, it's all about the sea and our product," said DMR Marketing Director Irvin Jackson.

The winning chef will go on to compete in the Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans.  However, if the Gulf Safe campaign is successful on the national stage, there will be a bigger winner.

"The bigger purpose is to support our seafood. For the rest of the country and the world know that our seafood is safe, it's of the highest quality, the best taste and the safest seafood that you can buy today," said Jackson.

The chef who took home the crown was Chef Heath Johnson of The City Grocery Restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi.

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