Chefs show support for Gulf seafood at Seafood Night Out
What's for dinner? Some top chefs hope you'll be having "America's Night Out for Gulf Seafood" on December 1. More than 150 chefs from around the nation are taking part. They'll be showing their support for Gulf of Mexico seafood by cooking and serving it to family and friends.
Ralph Brennan, owner of four restaurants in New Orleans, is helping to organize the event. He says they want the world to know Gulf seafood is just fine after the BP oil spill.
The Dec. 1 event will see prominent chefs serving seafood to diners, friends and family, as they recommend the product. The chefs coordinating the event include several from well-known New Orleans restaurants including Bacco, Red Fish Grill, Mr. B's, Domenica, Cafe Giovanni, GW Fins, Roux, 7 on Fulton, The Landing and the Ralph Brennan and John Besh restaurant groups.
Sales of seafood have dropped since the BP oil spill this summer. Although experts have said seafood reaching the market is safe and untainted by oil, consumers have been reluctant to try it.
The last five years, with Hurricane Katrina, the economic downturn, and then the BP oil spill in the Gulf, have been blows to the seafood industries, said Ralph Brennan, owner of four restaurants in New Orleans.
"This event is an opportunity to show people that our seafood is OK," Brennan said.
Gulf seafood has been tested over 27,000 times and there has not been one incident of it being oil-tainted, Brennan said.
"Our seafood was never tainted," said Cliff R. Hall, of New Orleans Fish House, a supplier. "Only our image was tainted."
Hall, who ships seafood to multiple buyers nationwide, said demand is still down 20 to 25 percent in Louisiana, and 50 to 75 percent nationally.
At the height of the spill, about 37 percent of federal waters in the Gulf were closed, or 88,522 square miles. Many Louisiana fishermen spent shrimp season working for BP as part of the massive cleanup effort. Testing of seafood began almost immediately and officials insist that all seafood caught in the reopened areas is safe to consume.
America's Night Out for Gulf Seafood was the brainchild of Susan Nash, who said she came up with it after a trip to New York City.
"We saw restaurant after restaurant after restaurant with signs in their windows saying they did not serve Gulf seafood," she said. "It was terrible. We know the seafood is safe, and worry that if others don't understand that it could hurt the industry and our restaurants."
The hope is to get 200 or more chefs from around the country to participate either in their homes or businesses. Each would prepare a meal that included one or more dishes made with Gulf seafood, Nash said. If they prepare it for their restaurants, each chef would decide the menu and prices, she said.
"We have a core group of 30 chefs in Louisiana," Nash said. "Each of those are asking friends who are chefs to participate, and in turn those chefs are asking others."
"The challenge for us is still repairing the brand," said Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. "Any time we can get an event like this with chefs across the country showcasing and endorsing seafood, it helps us do that."