Southern Sizzle With A Creole Twist

2 Celebrity Chefs Spice Up Aquarium’s Seafood Events

Thursday, August 1, 2013 - by Thom Benson
Celebrity chefs Virginia Willis and Susan Spicer are coming to the IMAX stage for the Tennessee Aquarium’s third annual Serve & Protect events.
Celebrity chefs Virginia Willis and Susan Spicer are coming to the IMAX stage for the Tennessee Aquarium’s third annual Serve & Protect events.
- photo by John Bamber

Two celebrity chefs are coming to Chattanooga Sept. 19, for a seafood showdown. The “Decapod Duel” is the theme for the Tennessee Aquarium’s third annual Serve & Protect events. Guests will enjoy Southern sizzle with a Creole twist during two live cooking shows to support the Aquarium’s conservation mission.

Virginia Willis and Susan Spicer, two award-winning celebrity chefs, will share the spotlight on the IMAX stage while demonstrating the culinary versatility of shrimp and crawfish. “I love the idea of comparing and contrasting these two species,” said chef Tamie Cook, who will produce this year’s entertaining cooking shows. “And having two different chefs with different backgrounds creates a lively and fun atmosphere, opening up a new dimension for Serve & Protect.”

Virginia Willis is a classically-trained, truly Southern chef who mixes fun into the approachable recipes she creates.  She authored the highly acclaimed cookbooks, “Bon Appetit, Y’all” and “Basic to Brilliant, Y’all,” is a contributing editor to Southern Living and has produced more than 1,000 TV episodes. Ms. Willis has worked for Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay and as executive producer for Epicurious on The Discovery Channel. She has also appeared on Food Network’s “Chopped.”

As a sustainable seafood advocate, Ms. Willis serves on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force. Her popular food blog often focuses on sustainability and encourages wise seafood choices and supporting locally-sourced food.

Susan Spicer is a one-woman industry in New Orleans. Among her many awards, Ms. Spicer has been named one of Food and Wine's 10 Best New Chefs and has received the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Southeast Region, 1993. Her French Quarter restaurant Bayona has been featured in Bon Appetit and has been listed as one of the top 5 restaurants in the Zagat Guide for New Orleans. She has received the DiRoNa designation from Distinguished Restaurants of North America and the Robert Mondavi Culinary Award of Excellence. In May 2010, Ms. Spicer was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America.

Ms. Spicer appeared on the Bravo television program Top Chef during the finale in 2009. Spicer is also credited with inspiring a character in the HBO series Treme.

The Aquarium’s third annual Serve & Protect program, presented by First Tennessee, kicks off a weekend of sustainable seafood events in Chattanooga.

Serve & Protect Events - Thursday, Sept. 19

Serve & Protect midday affair begins at 11 am. Attendees will join chefs from Whole Foods for cooking demonstrations and tastings in the IMAX Great Hall. Gourmet boxed lunches will be provided for guests to enjoy in the theater while chefs Spicer and Willis get cooking on stage. A dessert reception with the chefs will follow the one-hour show. Individual tickets for this event are $75 dollars and are available at: http://tnaqua.org/SustainableSeafood/2013SpecialEvent

The Aquarium’s third annual Serve & Protect evening event begins at 5:30 pm as guests gather in the IMAX Great Hall for cocktails and appetizers. Chefs Spicer and Willis will present a friendly skillet-to-skillet competition unlocking the full culinary potential of shrimp and crawfish. They might even invite an audience member or two onstage to participate.  Then attendees will be served an elegant seafood dinner, prepared by chefs from some of Chattanooga’s finest restaurants, within the Aquarium’s galleries. A dessert reception will cap off the evening with an opportunity to meet Spicer and Willis. Individual tickets for the evening event are $200 each and are available at: http://tnaqua.org/SustainableSeafood/2013SpecialEvent

Downtown Dine Around - Friday, Sept. 20 and Saturday, Sept. 21

Everyone is encouraged to try a new sustainable seafood menu item offered during the Chattanooga Downtown Dine Around. Diners will find special Serve & Protect menu items featuring sustainable seafood options prepared by some of the city’s most talented chefs.

Serve & Protect Culinary Partners:

- 212 Market

- Back Inn Cafe

- Bluewater Grille

- Broad Street Grille

- Easy Bistro & Bar

- Events with Taste Catering

- Lee Towery Catering

- Porter’s Steakhouse

- Public House

- Rembrandt’s

- St. John’s Restaurant

- Sticky Fingers

- Swiss Am Fine Catering

- Whole Foods

Cast Iron Cookoff at the Chattanooga Market - Sunday, Sept. 22

Five chefs will demonstrate their finesse at the Chattanooga Market’s Cast Iron Cook-off. A mystery sustainable seafood product will be revealed to the contestants who then have one hour to shop the Market for ingredients. It’s standing room only as the chefs then draw upon all of their skills to develop delectable seafood dishes to impress a panel of judges. Market attendees enjoy this friendly competition and walk away learning a bit about making wise seasfood choices and professional cooking tricks of the trade.

Famed Foodist Alton Brown helped establish, and continues to support, the Tennessee Aquarium’s Serve & Protect program.  He explains how purchasing seafood caught or raised in the U.S. benefits our ocean in this short video: http://tnaqua.org/SustainableSeafood/TakeAction.


Sluggos’s North Vegetarian Café Granted Beer License After Move On Cherokee Boulevard

The main concern of the Chattanooga Beer Board is to keep people safe. The holder of a beer license is given a permit that has the potential of doing a lot of damage, said Vice Chairman of the Beer Board Christopher Keene. It is the responsibility of the recipient of that license to protect the people of Chattanooga against those that are a threat to themselves and others from drunk ... (click for more)

Rhonda On The Prowl: Mojo Burrito, The Fresh Tex-Mex Go-To

A favorite go-to spot for Flash and me is Mojo Burrito in Red Bank. It’s the perfect late night dinner hangout, with its funky local art, hip overhead music, and fresh Tex-Mex concoctions. When I go, I usually stick with the signature Mojo Burrito. “St. Elmo’s Fire chicken, Spanish rice, black beans, Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, and red onion, please.” That’s how I order ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Schools Closed Tuesday Due To Icy Road Conditions

Due to icy road conditions in the mountain areas, Hamilton County School will be closed today. School age child care will be also be closed. Twelve month employees will report by 10 a.m. Marion, Grundy and Polk schools are closed Tuesday due to the inclement weather. Hamilton County Schools will be on a two-hour delay on   Tuesday . School Age Child Care ... (click for more)

Brandon Bettis, 25, Arrested For Home Invasion; 2 Other Suspects Being Sought

Brandon Bettis, 25, was arrested after a home invasion early Monday morning, and two other suspects are being sought. Chattanooga Police responded to the 1100 block of Thomas Lane at 6:30 a.m. on the report of a home invasion robbery.  The suspects entered the home of the victims, James Shrum, 47, and Hillary Schooley, 25.   The victims were wakened and threatened ... (click for more)

The City Failed To Watch The Chattanooga History Museum Dollars - And Response (3)

The tell tale signs of the History Museum's folly have been evident for years. When I was a former member of City Council I interviewed Dr. Daryl Black, Ph.D. to determine if I should argue for or against the annual funding of his organization. His interview, the multi-year history of administrative non-performance (despite consistent repetitive funding), and a review of the organizational ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Momma Bears Roar

If I could count Hamilton County’s best educators on one hand, Normal Park Elementary Principal Jill Levine would be the biggest finger. What she and her faculty and a dazzling commitment from both her students and parents have accomplished is an educational dream. I am told people literally move to North Chattanooga just so their children will be zoned for the award-winning school. ... (click for more)