Salute chef taking on the nation’s best

282-20090517-235647-pic-318855187_embedded_prod_affiliate_77GULFPORT — A Gulf Coast chef competing against the best in the nation plans to earn Mississippi the culinary crown for a second year. Rob Stinson, owner of Salute Italian Restaurant, Lookout 49 and the soon-to-open Back Bay Seafood Restaurant, will compete July 18 in the 6th annual Great American Seafood Cook-off. Last year’s winner is John Currence, the chef and owner of City Grocery in Oxford. Governors in all 50 states send their most prized chefs to New Orleans to prepare seafood dishes using sustainable, domestic seafood and the best culinary products from their states. This is Stinson’s second shot at the title. He also competed in 2007. “I think Chef Rob Stinson is going to go to New Orleans and prove Mississippi has what it takes to win this event,” said Irvin Jackson, director of Mississippi’s Seafood Marketing Program under the Department of Marine Resources. “Of course, it’s not all about winning, but promoting and supporting our seafood industries and giving people who love seafood the choice of selecting the best and healthiest seafood available.” After talking to a past winner, Stinson adjusted his strategy for this second shot at the title. His dish will be “a little bit more high-end than before” and feature the Coast’s gulf grouper because its season starts in July. He hasn’t finalized the menu but expects it to have an Italian flair and include a pan-seared grouper with a lobster reduction. Chef Cory Fazzio, who works with Stinson at Salute and Lookout 49, will assist with the preparation and presentation for the contest. “I’m going there to win,” Stinson said. But winning isn’t everything, he said. Besides the sense of self-satisfaction, Stinson sees this contest as a vehicle for showing the plight of domestic seafood. The Coast chef tries to educate the public about the importance of choosing American seafood over imported when possible. He urges shoppers to examine the packages on frozen seafood before purchasing. He frequently prepares dishes using shrimp and other Gulf seafood on a local cooking show, and has appeared with Emeril Lagasse on The Food Network promoting Gulf seafood.

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