By the Way

Coast chefs cook their best dishes to help fight hunger

Feeding the Gulf Coast's Mississippi Chef Challenge on Sept. 21, 2017
Feeding the Gulf Coast's Mississippi Chef Challenge on Sept. 21, 2017 lwalck@sunherald.com

People on the Mississippi Coast are hungry.

Not the I-really-want-a-cheeseburger-right-now kind of hungry, the kind that leaves kids with grumbling tummies unable to sleep and disabled seniors too embarrassed to ask for help when the last of their food runs out.

As the daughter of a recently retired public school teacher for 25 years, I’ve heard about how kids show up to their elementary school in the morning starving because the only decent meal they get during the day is in the cafeteria.

It’s one of the reasons why I attended the annual fundraiser Thursday for Feeding the Gulf Coast, a nonprofit that feeds 24 counties in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. This was the first year they held fundraisers in Mississippi and Florida, after hosting it in Mobile for 19 years.

“Your neighbors are struggling with hunger, and a lot of times they’re struggling in silence,” said the organization’s President and CEO Cathy Pope.

She said Feeding the Gulf Coast serves eight counties in Mississippi from a warehouse in Gulfport she described as a “shell” in desperate need of completing. They partner with Twelve Baskets Food Bank, run by Catholic Social and Community Services by the Diocese of Biloxi, to feed the Coast, but they’re looking to expand services.

“This is really about awareness for South Mississippi,” she said.

The fundraiser, which included a silent auction, brought in about $23,000, she said.

Thursday’s event brought local chefs out to compete with dishes in five categories: appetizer, soup, entree, dessert and People’s Choice. Guests at the event got to sample all of them and vote for their favorite. There also was a panel of “certified” judges that selected the C-Spire Grand Champion, which won $1,000 and a paid entry into the World Food Championships in Orange Beach, Alabama.

I’ll list the dishes, because they sound (and were) delicious. Full disclosure: Another reason I wanted to attend is that I’m obsessed with cooking and cooking shows. I’ve talked about my obsession with “The Great British Baking Show” at length on Jeff Clark’s weekly food-themed #ClarkCast podcast, and I frequently bring in baked goods for everyone to try. This week, it’s healthy cookies!

Here are the winners:

▪ Appetizer: Treasure Bay Casino - Seared jumbo shrimp stuffed with jalapenos and red onions, wrapped in Applewood-smoked bacon

▪ Soup: Valley Services Inc. Senior Nutrition’s Roasted shrimp and butternut squash soup finished with spicy Kielbasa sausage

▪ Entree: Terrace Cafe at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino’s Landmass burger with beef and mushroom blended patty, sticky onions, a Mississippi tomato fondue, crispy bread and butter pickles, American cheese, Landmass BBQ Sauce and a homemade roll

▪ Dessert: Scarlet Pearl Casino’s Waterfront Buffet - Tirimasu

▪ People’s Choice: Scarlet Pearl Casino’s gumbo

▪ C-Spire Grand Champion: Hollywood Casino’s Pan-seared foie gras with fire roasted Fuji apple compote and wild berry gastrique

Lauren Walck: 228-896-2393, @laurenwalck

Mississippi Chef Challenge entries

Appetizer

  • Hollywood Casino - Pan-seared foie gras with fire roasted Fuji apples and wild berry gastrique
  • Island View Casino - Smoked jerk pork tenderloin canape on sweet potato bread crouton, Caribbean chutney and goat cheese.
  • Merit Health Biloxi - Latin ceviche martini with a medley of shrimp, scallops and corvina tossed with avocado, cilantro, lime juice and white wine and garnished with friend green plantains and peppercorns.
  • The Castle Restaurant (in Natchez) - Friend green tomatoes with crawfish, Tasso honey and hot sauce beurre rouge
  • Treasure Bay Casino - Seared jumbo shrimp stuffed with jalapenos and red onions, wrapped in Applewood-smoked bacon

Entree

  • Boomtown Casino - Seared bacon-wrapped scallops over lemon garlic butter Swiss chard
  • Harrah’s Magnolia House by Kelly English - Zhug chicken, a Middle Eastern-spiced chicken with pico de gallo, za’atar and feta on pita brad
  • Island View Casino - Redfish Naploen with jumbo shrimp and lump crab meat.
  • Merit Health Biloxi - Tradewinds sushi stack with spicy tuna and lump crab stacked with seaweed, avocado, sticky rice and garnished with a fried wonton and wasabi sauce.

Soup

  • Scarlet Pearl’s Waterfront Buffet - Gumbo
  • Treasure Bay Casino - Pumpkin spice and Andouille sausage soup
  • Valley Services - Roasted shrimp and butternut squash soup finished with spicy Kielbasa sausage

Dessert

  • Scarlet Pearl Casino’s Waterfront Buffet - Tirimasu
  • Valley Services Inc. Senior Nutrition - Warm apple crisp with pumpkin streusel and a bourbon caramel sauce
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