HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Two chefs from South Mississippi have been chosen to represent the state at the Olympic Games in London. But they're not going there to compete.
The chefs are among eight from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, who will be serving up some seafood favorites to thousands of Olympic athletes and special guests. Their trip will help showcase the unique culture and cuisine of the Gulf Coast.
As the executive chef of the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi, Chris Poplin oversees eight restaurants. He is pretty fired-up about the opportunity to cook for a much larger crowd in London.
"I was very honored by it, honored by the nomination," said Poplin. "I'm really excited to go over there and represent the Gulf Coast on the world stage. I think it's going to be fantastic."
Poplin has been chosen by BP to participate in the first ever "Spirit of the Gulf." It's a four-day cultural event at the 2012 Olympic Games. Calvin Coleman is also gearing up for the trip across the pond. He's the owner of Noami's Catering in Harrison County.
"I couldn't believe it, because there are so many more qualified chefs that had been nominated. But I'm really happy about the opportunity," said Coleman.
Coleman plans to serve 50 gallons of Seafood Gumbo with alligator sausage. Poplin will cook-up a dish he has never made for anyone before, Cajun-style Shrimp with smoked sausage and chive grits.
Each day, more than 1,000 guests, including athletes, their families, and Olympic committee members will get to sample this flavor of the south.
"We're going to have the opportunity to share the Mississippi Gulf Coast seafood, hospitality, and the culinary arts here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to the world on a global scale. So that's pretty exciting for a small town Mississippi Gulf Coast boy like me," said Coleman.
"I have a lot of friends who are from the U.K. and their pallets are pretty bland," he added. "I'm hoping we're going to introduce them to a few new flavors. I hope it opens their eyes to the cuisine of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and to Gulf Coast seafood."
Both men hope to bring home the gold for Mississippi's tourism industry. After years of seasoning their craft, this Olympic experience will no doubt be the icing on the cake.
"Probably the top honor I've ever received, to not just go to London, but while the Olympics are there, cooking for the world stage and some of our U.S. athletes and fatten them up and making them nice and happy. I think it's going to be great," said Poplin.
"I'm not at all nervous about it. I'm really thrilled and very happy and very, very proud to be part of this opportunity," said Coleman.
The "Spirit of the Gulf" will also feature three Gulf Coast bands, but those plans have not been finalized yet. The Olympic Games start July 27.