Highlights from the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience — Eating America
Imitation As Flattery
For 21 years, foodies have been flocking to this annual festival to celebrate the best food and wine the Big Easy has to offer. More than 10,000 people show up to sample local delicacies and, of course, enjoy some street entertainment.
Stoves in the Street
In the French Quarter, 73 chefs have set up temporary kitchens to show off their culinary creations, while others have set up in the convention center. Whether it's gumbo, muffulettas, beignets or po' boys, Southern specialties are everywhere. One thing is for sure: No one will go home hungry.
When Alligators Fly
Anthony is puzzled after local Chef Greg Sonnier proudly admits he's serving Alligator Wings at the festival. The front legs are boiled and deep-fried to tenderize the protein-rich meat, then tossed in what Greg calls his "own take on alligator barbecue sauce."
Inside the convention center, 10 chefs are competing to be King of New Orleans Seafood. First-time competitor and New Orleans native Chef Anthony Scanio makes it all about the locals. "Food is a celebration. You can connect with people," he says.
Chefs prepare for the competition by gathering the freshest ingredients Louisiana has to offer. Staying true to the spirit of the competition, most chefs are using ingredients sourced from the New Orleans area. Then again, it's definitely not difficult to find fresh seafood in the area.
Better with Butter
Chef Chip Flanagan has been working in the New Orleans restaurant scene for more than 20 years. For the competition he's preparing cobia, a local fish that he says has a very clean flavor. But his butter sauce is what really rounds out the dish: "Take a pat of butter, say a prayer and whisk it in," he says.
All in the Family
Challenger Aaron Burgau tells Anthony that he hated shrimp growing up because his father sold it all around the world. He says his dad told him: "You better learn to like shrimp. That's how you got that shirt on your back." This year he's hoping to take the title in his dad's honor with a crawfish and uni pasta.
By Invitation Only
After being invited to compete, each chef has only one hour to complete his or her seafood dish from scratch. The judges are scoring based on creativity, quality, presentation and seafood flavor. Dishes include mouthwatering creations like Red Snapper with Coconut Rice and Cobia with Sweet Pea Succotash.
A Look Behind the Curtain
Anthony stops by the judges' table to get some inside info on what they're looking for. "It has to be something that's not going to completely mask the taste of the seafood," says Susan Ford of Louisiana Kitchen and Culture Magazine.
A King Is Crowned
In the end, Chef Aaron's decadent pasta dish earned him the title of King of New Orleans Seafood. "The crown looks lovely on top of the snap-back brim," Anthony tells him. "It was a great honor to win," says Aaron. "I feel like my dad is looking down on me and he's very proud of me."
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Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes photo galleries of the food festivals featured on the series.