2017 Culinaria Query – Best of Bycatch

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Amid torrential downpours brought by Tropical Storm Cindy, Best of Bycatch was held at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum. A crowd of over 100 people braved inclement weather to witness the first ever Culinaria Center Invasive Species Cook-off of Asian Carp.

The event was held in conjunction with Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition and Eat Local NOLA in an effort to bring awareness to the issue of Asian Carp on our coast and native species. The Asian carp can grow to 110 lbs and consume 20-40% of its body weight daily in plankton. This is problematic for two reasons. First because Asian carp can produce up to a million eggs each year, and this means they can simply out-number and out-compete native species. Second because plankton is the base of the food chain and it’s integral to the balance of energy in an aquatic ecosystem, that simply cannot withstand the ensuing demand.

These voracious eaters are unceremoniously overtaking and pushing out the native species. But if we eat them, we are not only help to preserve our Coast but helping to create for-benefit businesses in the area. That’s what the event was all about.

WWL-TV resident Chef Kevin Belton served as MC for the event. Chef Philippe Parola of the Silverfin Group, Chef Alfred Singleton of Café Sbisa, and Poppy Tooker of Louisiana Eats served on the panel of judges. Additionally, Chef Philippe gave away “Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em” t-shirts and explained his effort to rebrand Asian Carp as “Silverfin” to improve commercial viability of his own frozen Silverfin fish cakes going to market in August of this year.

Chef Melissa Araujo of the acclaimed Alma pop-up prepared Asian Carp tacos. Renowned environmentalist Chef Dana Honn of Café Carmo wowed judges and attendees alike with his Brazilian-style presentation of Asian Carp. Chef Rob Clement of Spotted Cat Food and Spirits ingeniously created his own Asian Carp mousse to top his Asian Carp fish cakes

But it was the fish cakes from Chef Jessica Richardson from Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar and Restaurant that were crowned both Best of Bycatch by the judges and crowd favorite. Chef Jess poached the fish to easily remove the pin bones before constructing them into a fish cake. They were lightly battered and fried, set atop a slice of creole tomato, and finished with a light carp salad.

Congratulations to Chef Jess. And thanks to everyone who made the Best of Bycatch happen!