August 22, 2013, Gulf Shores, AL,(GSA) – Area restaurants are gearing up for the Sixth Annual National Shrimp Festival Restaurant Challenge, sponsored by Zatarain’s.
The event will feature many of the best recipes from Alabama Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce member restaurants in a competition to create this year’s best Alabama Wild Shrimp dish and take home the Zatarain’s Trophy. (At right is last year's winner, Ashley Cabona of Shaggy's.)
Formerly known as the Chef’s Challenge, it is set to take place Aug. 27 - 28 at The Gulf Coast Culinary Institute at Faulkner State Community College in Gulf Shores.
“This is the sixth year we’ve held this event and it has grown bigger and better each year through the support of our area restaurants and, of course, our title sponsor Zatarain’s,” Alabama Gulf Coast Area Chamber of Commerce Special Events Director Ann vonEberstein said. “It will be hard to top last year’s winner, but the imagination and preparation these restaurants and their culinary staffs put into the dishes they prepare for the challenge never ceases to amaze me.”
Applications are now being accepted for area restaurants that want to take part in the event, according to vonEberstein.
“We’ve set aside two days for the competition this year,” she said. “So there are plenty of slots available for our local restaurants to show us their best dishes, which must include Alabama Wild Shrimp and at least one of Zatarain’s more than 200 products.”
The dishes will be rated by a panel of three judges whose identities remain a secret except to Restaurant Challenge Committee members.
Although for the first four years the competition was called the “Chef’s Challenge” organizers realized that some of the area’s best restaurants do not have a “chef” per se.
“We want this to be an all-inclusive event. If you’re a restaurant and a Chamber member, you’re eligible to compete,” vonEberstein said. “I’ve had many restaurant owners in the past say they would love to take part, but they didn’t employ an actual chef. While that’s never was a requirement, we believe the name change puts that notion to rest once and for all.”
According to Shrimp Festival Chairman Matt Mogan, the Restaurant Challenge goes to the heart of what the Shrimp Festival is about.
“This was a festival built around honoring the locally caught shrimp and the great recipes that were made from these shrimp,” Mogan said. “I grew up down here eating at all our great restaurants, and I can’t think of a better way to honor those people who worked hard to make the Festival what it is today than the Restaurant Challenge.”
Besides just the bragging rights for having the best shrimp dish in the area, vonEberstein said there are some great prizes to be given away to the winning teams.
“Our first-place winner will receive a $2,000 cash prize, a set of Royal Prestige cookware, the Zatarain’s Restaurant Challenge Trophy,” she said. “The second-place team will receive a $500 cash prize along with a trophy and the third-place team will receive a $250 cash prize along with a trophy.
“Along with the cash and trophies, each of our top three teams will make an appearance on Fox 10’s morning show Studio 10 to prepare their dishes. They will also receive public recognition of their work at the Shrimp Festival Kick-Off Party and on stage at the 42nd Annual National Shrimp Festival.”
The 42nd Annual National Shrimp Festival™ presented by Zatarain’s will take place Oct. 10 – 13 where Alabama Highway 59 meets the beach. For more information on the Festival visit www.myshrimpfest.com.
“There are so many great restaurants down here with such a wide variety of tasty shrimp dishes, I want to encourage each of them to come out and prepare a dish for the Restaurant Challenge,” vonEberstein said. “In fact, I would encourage everyone to go to their favorite restaurant and let them know what dish they think should be entered in the competition. Who knows, your dish may be judged to be the best. This is a way to let everyone know how great our restaurants are.”