Chef Alex Eaton crowned king at Great American Seafood Cookoff
Alex Eaton, executive chef of Manship Wood Fired Kitchen in Jackson, Miss., who honed his cooking skills at several New Orleans restaurants, won the crown Saturday (Aug. 6) at the 13th annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
The daylong cookoff, which included a timed cooking competition between 11 U.S. chefs, was held during the Louisiana Food Service and Hospitality Expo, where companies promote products and services for restaurant owners and operators. The expo continues through Monday at the convention center.
The cookoff, which started in 2004, was created by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board to promote consumption of Gulf of Mexico seafood.
Eaton, who is from Jackson and will wear the King of American Seafood crown for a year, won with his "trio of Gulf shrimp," which included barbecue using brown shrimp, Mediterranean using white shrimp and "florid" using royal red shrimp.
"I spent some time cooking in New Orleans, so I had to do a shout-out with the barbecue shrimp," Eaton said. He noted he worked at Domenica, American Sector, Mr. B's Bistro and Capedeville.
"I didn't want to do the same thing," said Eaton about the snapper collar with shrimp and crab that won him the state title in Mississippi. "When I won the seafood cookoff, the first thing that popped into my mind was do three shrimp."
He said he felt "joyous.... I know my family is proud and so I'm proud to make my family proud."
Chef John Munday of Samantha's Tap Room and Wood Grill in Little Rock, Ark., was named runner-up. Chef Peter McCarthy of EVOO in Cambridge, Mass., was third-place winner.
The dishes were presented to a panel of six national judges, who scored based on composition, craftsmanship, creativity, flavor and presentation.
To be eligible to compete, the 11 chefs must have won the title of King or Queen of Seafood in their respective state or be appointed by their state's governor.
Blake Phillips of Restaurant Sage in Monroe represented Louisiana. Phillips won the King of Seafood title at the 2016 Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off with his blackened sous vide grouper, with fava bean and sweet potato puree and corn, crab and mirliton slaw. That competition was held during the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience at the convention center.
These other U.S. chefs, listed with their restaurant and state, competed Saturday:Josh Quick of Odette in Alabama; Colette Nelson of Ludvig's Bistro in Alaska;John Munday of Samantha's Tap Room & Wood Grill in Arkansas; Chris Sherrill of Flora-Bama Yacht Club in Florida; Peter McCarthy of EVOO in Massachusetts; TV personality and caterer Bethy Rossos of Oregon; Nicholas Huckabee of The Dunes Golf & Beach Club in South Carolina; Santiago "Jimmy" De La Cruz of The Woodlands Country Club in Texas; and Logen Crew of Current Fish & Oyster in Utah.
By Ann Maloney