Friday, September 10, 2010

White House's Comerford, FDA's Hamburg Will Promote Gulf Seafood Safety In New Orleans

Chefs from across US invited to help reassure worried seafood lovers that the Gulf is open for business; Food Network will film
Update: A post about the events is here
On Monday, Sept. 13, White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will continue the unprecedented White House campaign to promote Gulf seafood, a critical component of the region's economy that's been deeply harmed by the BP oil spill. President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have each lauded Gulf seafood during public remarks--and pointedly consumed it--and Comerford and Hamburg will be leading a delegation of chefs for a day-long confab that will cover everything from catching (there will be boat rides!) to cooking, with a special focus on safety. (Top: At left, President Obama's hands mid-shrimp boil during a visit to the Gulf coast in June. Inset is Comerford)

The Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board is sponsoring the events, which formally kick off on Sunday evening with a reception and "dine around." Famed New Orleans chefs John Besh and John Folse are leading the local delegation, along with Chicago chef Rick Tramonto, who is opening a new resturant in New Orleans. Chefs from across America have been invited to participate. The Food Network will be filming the whole seafood shindig for an upcoming episode of My Life In Food.

"The biggest challenge at present is helping this industry get back on its feet," read the invite to chefs. "That is why these prominent chefs have come together, to tell America that the Gulf is open for business."

Chefs go fishing & shrimping; Hamburg gives a safety briefing
On Monday morning, Comerford and co will head out on fishing and shrimping boats to witness the Gulf's hardest working folks in action, then tour shrimp and seafood processing facilities. There will be a special dockside briefing from Hamburg, who will detail all that FDA and NOAA have done to ensure that seafood from reopened federal fishing waters has been tested and is safe. That's included dockside testing, chemical testing, and "sniff" testing seafood caught in the Gulf.

Block Party Boil
In the late afternoon, Comerford and her fellow chefs will fan out across New Orleans, and work in teams at restaurants, to create traditional Gulf seafood dishes. It will all be served at a special 6:00 PM Block Party/shrimp boil with St. Bernard Project, a non-profit that helps those displaced by Hurricane Katrina return to New Orleans. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a family that is returning to a new home.

>EPA's BP oil spill Gulf testing result page is here; NOAA's fishery closures and other information is here; FDA's information page is here

The chefs scheduled to attend the day of events include:

From New Orleans, in addition to Folse & Besh: Chip Flanagan, of Ralph's on The Park; Drew Dzejak, The Grill Room; Greg Reggio, Taste Buds, Inc.; Chris Lusk, Café Adelaide; Christopher Lynch and Barusch Rabasa, Meson 923. Washington, DC: Victor Albisu, from BLT Steak; Robert Weidmaier of Marcel’s, Brasserie Beck, Mussel Bar, BRABO and Jeff Trunks, of Acadiana, Ceiba, DC Coast, PassionFish, and TenPenh. Miami, FL: Peter Vauthy of Red The Steakhouse; Michael Schwartz from Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink; Michelle Bernstein from Michy's and Sra. Martinez. Seattle, WA: Dan Bugge and Chester Gerl from Matt's In The Market. Los Angeles, CA: Brandon Boudet from Dominick's. Phoenix, AZ: James Siao of Taggia.

The White House campaign
The White House Gulf seafood promotion campaign began in earnest on August 8, when senior energy and climate adviser Carol Browner announced on national television that Gulf shrimp would be served at President Obama's belated South Lawn 49th birthday barbecue. The Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board was responsible for other Gulf shrimp shenanigans at the White House, which included the creation of a 30 foot Gulf seafood Po'Boy, and players from the New Orleans Saints cooking shrimp kebobs with assistant chef/Senior Policy Adviser For Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass. These were delivered to members of the media in the White House briefing room, and a special White House video was created about the moment, which featured Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. NOAA chief Jane Lubchenco hosted a special Gulf seafood safety live-chat on the White House website; a video is here.

When the President and First Lady visited Panama City Beach, Florida in August, the President talked Gulf seafood safety...and ate some, too. Most recently, during his visit to New Orleans to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Katrina, President Obama had a Gulf shrimp Po'Boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern, then talked Saints & seafood during his remarks at Xavier University (Above: Kass and Saints Nick Leckey, Garrett Hartley, Bobby McCray, and Zach Strief cooking Gulf shrimp in the White House kitchen)

*Top photo by Pete Souza/White House; Comerford photo by Obama Foodorama; bottom via White House