In the Bag: Volunteers Wow as Another NOAA Fish Fry Sells Out

by / Newsroom Ink on June 21, 2017

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross enjoys the ambiance of the Gulf Seafood Institute’s booth.

by Newsroom Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There no denying Gulf seafood is delicious, and now the nation’s most influential maritime officials know it, too. The newly minted Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, flanked by Secret Service agents and dutiful staff members, made a beeline for GSI’s demonstration booth at the 42nd Annual NOAA Fish Fry.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and GSI president Harlon Pearce share a moment of personal conversation about Gulf seafood.

Landing in the center of the Department of Commerce’s downtown DC historic headquarters, Secretary Ross enjoyed several uninterrupted minutes of conversation with GSI Chairman Harlon Pearce and board member Raz Halili before sampling Gulf red snapper and Gulf oysters.

Secretary Ross, whose oversight includes the management of our nation’s fisheries, was among 1,200 seafood lovers who attended.

Yellowfin Tuna brought straight from the Gulf.

Held at the Herbert C. Hoover Main Commerce Building on 14th St. and Constitution Avenue, the perennial favorite put samples of seafood into the mouths and minds of a welcoming politicians, bureaucrats, seafood industry insiders, and satisfied seafood consumers who came to experience the best America’s fisheries have to offer.

“It’s a great event, a great window to the Gulf seafood industry,” said Chef Bernard Henry, one of three chefs who served Gulf-caught American Red Snapper on behalf of the Gulf Seafood Institute.

Kung Pow Oysters as served at Dewey Destin’s Harborside restaurant in Destin, Florida.

Chef Bernard’s Cajun Style Florida Snapper with Lime Margarita Sauce was a crowd favorite, as was his Red Snapper with Spicy Mango Salsa, donated by Ariel Seafood in Destin, Florida. Greg Abrams Seafood, located in Panama City, Florida, also represented the Gulf coast with Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Mustard Sauce, and Micro Wasabi Greens. Chef Jim Shirah of Dewey Destin’s Harborside Restaurant in Destin, Florida, rounded out the brilliant trio representing the Gulf with 100 pounds of Kung Pow Oysters.

“It was an honor to be invited, first of all,” Chef Jim said. “People were fantastic, and it was nice to be able to show off what we have in the Gulf.”

At the Destin restaurant, Kung Pow oysters are a menu favorite, made with teriyaki sauce, ginger, lime juice, sweet chili and sesame seeds. The Gulf appetizers were donated by Prestige Oysters, one of the nation’s leading distributors of fresh, shucked, high-pressure processed and frozen oysters, located in Dickinson, Texas.

Gulf caught American Red Snapper on the grill.

Each year, the NOAA Fish Fry provides a platform for up to a couple dozen seafood chefs to present their dishes and bring awareness to local fisheries.  The guest chefs came from locations around the United States, from as far as Alaska and Hawaii to as close as the Chesapeake Bay.  Both wild caught and aquaculture raised fish and shellfish are served.

“It’s a little bit crazy from a Chef’s point of view because you dish out a lot of food,” Chef Bernard said. “They send me beautiful fish, Red Snapper from the Gulf, and it’s like a cooking marathon for a couple hours.”

Tickets sold out as previous years have, but quicker (just 20 days) since this year’s event offered online ticketing. In all, about 1,200 people attended, a mix of chefs, teams, VIPs and the make-or-break attendees: the volunteers.

“Many may not realize it’s not actually a NOAA event,” said Cheryl Oliver, co-chair for the second year, along with Michelle Reed. “This is run by NOAA employees who volunteer their time.”

No federal funds are put into this event. The Department of Commerce Credit Union is a small sponsor, but everything else is paid for by ticket sales and the 200 or so people who donate their time.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross talks with GSI president Harlon Pearce while GSI members Greg Abrams and Raz Halili listen in.

The Fish Fry event capped a busy week for GSI in the nation’s capitol, where more than a dozen members met with Gulf of Mexico Senators and Representatives, as well as federal agency representatives with jurisdiction over important fisheries issues. In all, 20 meetings on Capitol Hill covered management of Gulf red snapper, the H-2B visa program and burdensome new USDA regulations for US wild catfish.

From left: GSI members Steve Rash, Greg Abrams, Parker Destin and Dewey Destin.

Based on feedback from Members of Congress, GSI is actively working on legislative solutions to address both enforcement and accountability in the Gulf of Mexico private recreational red snapper fishery.

“These folks know we aim to serve the Gulf,” said GSI president Harlon Pearce. “Like I expressed to Secretary Ross, from Red Snapper legislation to aquaculture to seafood trade deficits, we’re a group that can make a difference.”

Pearce was joined by new members Steve Rash (Water Street Seafood, Apalachicola, FL), Greg Abrams (Abrams Seafood, Panama City), and Dewey and Parker Destin, as well as current members David Krebs (Ariel Seafoods), Chip Kunde (Sysco Corporation), Dr. Nancy Thompson (Florida Institute of Oceanography and 30-year veteran of NOAA Fisheries), Michael Kelly (CLS America), Raz Halili (Prestige Oysters), Randy Rhodes (Harvest Select) and others.

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About the Author

About the Author: Ed Lallo is the former editor of Gulf Seafood News and CEO of Newsroom Ink, an online brand journalism agency. .


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