October 17, 2013, Gulf Shores, AL (GSA)— Fried. Boiled. Grilled. Stewed. Broiled. Everyone has their favorite way of preparing fresh Alabama Gulf shrimp, and it often leads to heated debates over which one is the best.
Chef Brody Olive of Coast Restaurant at The Beach Club put an end to the debate – at least for the next year – and the answer is pan seared.
Olive prepared the winning dish - Pan Seared Alabama Gulf Shrimp, Zatarain’s Jambalaya Arancini, Broccolini with Tasso Creole Corn Cream - in the Sixth Annual Zatarain’s National Shrimp Festival Restaurant Challenge.
The Challenge was part of the 42nd Annual National Shrimp Festival™ presented by Zatarain’s and produced by the Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce. This year’s festival will take place Thursday through Sunday in Gulf Shores where Alabama 59 meets the Gulf.
Culinary artists from 12 other top area restaurants did their best to make Olive work hard to earn the top prize. The rules for the challenge were simple. Participating restaurants must be Chamber members, and the dishes must feature Alabama Wild Shrimp and at least one of the more than 200 Zatarain’s New Orleans-style food products.
Zatarain’s is the presenting sponsor of this year’s Festival and the Organized Seafood Association of Alabama, their Alabama Wild Shrimp campaign and the “Eat Alabama Gulf Seafood” are major sponsors as well.
This isn’t Olive’s first win at the Restaurant Challenge either. He was judged the winner four years ago at the second installment of the challenge.
“It’s awesome to repeat a win with any competition, we are very happy to be displaying the trophy front and center in Coast Restaurant,” Olive said. “I previously won first place in 2009, and second place in 2010 this was my fourth time competing.”
Mogan said the Restaurant Challenge is something he looks forward to every year.
“I log many, many hours on behalf of the Festival, and most of that time is spent doing mundane tasks that aren’t exciting, but have to be done nonetheless,” he said. “But the Restaurant Challenge is one of those instances where it makes all the other countless hours worth it. To be able to sample shrimp dishes from virtually every top restaurant in our area is a tough job, but it’s one I’m all too willing to volunteer for. Since this is my first year as Chairman, I’m already looking forward to future Restaurant Challenges.”
The dishes were rated by a panel of three judges with prestigious seafood and culinary backgrounds. Hose Bernabe is a private chef with the Clarence Day Co. and has more than two decades of culinary experience both domestically and internationally. Jim Smith is executive chef at the Alabama governor’s mansion and Joey Gilley with Bon Secour Fisheries.
Judges’ identities remained a secret except to Restaurant Challenge committee members. The event was Aug. 27 at The Gulf Coast Culinary Institute at Faulkner State Community College.
Along with taking home the Restaurant Challenge trophy, Olive took home $2,000 and a set of Royal Prestige cookware.
The Hangout in Gulf Shores took home $500 and the second-place trophy with their New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp with Toasted Baguette prepared by Chef Ira Gallon. Gallon has proved consistently good in his dishes as he placed third in last year’s competition.
Café Palm Breeze at Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach took home $250 and the third-place trophy with its Zatarain’s Big Zest Gulf Shrimp with Pineapple, Lemongrass Coconut Broth over Long Grain Rice prepared by Chef John Hamme.
Chamber Special Events Director Ann vonEberstein said along with the prizes, the chefs from the three top restaurants prepared their dishes on television.
“Our three top chefs were invited to prepare their dishes on Fox 10 television’s Studio 10 morning show,” she said. “It’s exciting to know that these chefs and their restaurants have gained some notoriety outside our immediate area for all their hard work.”
The winners were recognized during the Festival on Saturday according to vonEberstein.
“The dishes these chefs came up with were amazing,” she said. “It just goes to show you what great ingredients like Zatarain’s and Alabama Wild Shrimp coupled with great culinary minds can create – the best shrimp dishes anywhere.”