Posted: 29 Nov 2010 09:01 PM PST
Something fishy is about to happen at select restaurants across the country. On December 1, more than 200 chefs and restaurateurs nationwide will participate in “Dine America 2010: America’s Night Out for Gulf Seafood.” Behind the event is a dramatic statement: Chefs, whose livelihood depends upon the quality of their ingredients and cuisine, believe in the safety of Gulf seafood.
“Word of mouth is the best way to let people know that seafood is safe,” says Corporate Executive Chef Haley Bittermann of the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group in New Orleans.
She believes people are more likely to trust their friends and family than what they read in the media. So enjoying a good meal together, she says, is the best way to spread the message about Gulf seafood safety.
Chef Haley — and the entire Brennan family restaurants — have led the charge in sending that message. Throughout the oil spill crisis, the team of chefs and managers have continually educated their staff on the issues and kept Gulf seafood on the menu. Even as some supplies waned, the restaurants were careful to avoid passing along higher costs for coveted items such as oyster po’ boys.
“The perception — not the quality — is the only thing that has changed since the oil spill,” says Chef Haley. “There is a perception that the seafood is not safe. But it is safe. And far better than what you are going to get from other areas of the world.
She and other chefs are willing to stake their reputation on it.
In Atlanta, Georgia, more than 600 miles away from the Gulf coast, Texas native Chef Ford Fry of JCT Kitchen is excited to participate in the December 1 event, since it gives him a chance to showcase the Gulf seafood he grew up eating. While the menu is not yet finalized, he plans to prepare blue crabs, shrimp and oysters — possibly in a gumbo, his seafood dish of choice.
“The secret to a good gumbo is the stock,” says Fry, who learned to make gumbo not in culinary school, but on a trip down to Kaplan, Louisiana, where a friend’s mother taught him.
“It’s important that we support the local guys,” says Fry. “We’re doing alright and they’re having trouble. They need our support.”
Visit www.dineamerica2010.com to find a list of restaurants participating in the December 1 event.