Southern Sizzle With A Creole Twist

2 Celebrity Chefs Spice Up Aquarium’s Seafood Events

Thursday, August 01, 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.


Red White And Food Announces Petition Campaign Progress

Red White and Food, the nonprofit organization that supports allowing wine sales in Tennessee’s retail food stores, announced Friday that more than 119,000 signatures have been collected statewide for the wine in retail food stores petition campaign. “It’s encouraging to see the level of enthusiasm Tennesseans have shown for the campaign,” said Red White and Food campaign ... (click for more)

Five Star Food Service Grows Partnership With Chattanooga Community Kitchen

The Five Star Food Service presented a gift of nearly $13,000 to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, the company’s largest contribution to the organization to date. For the past four years Five Star has partnered with the Community Kitchen on its quest to feed and serve the physical, social and spiritual needs of the homeless and less fortunate in Chattanooga. Each year the employees ... (click for more)

EPB Files With FCC To Expand TV, Phone, Internet Offerings Outside Electric Service Area

 EPB announced Thursday that it has filed a petition to the FCC "in an effort to respond to neighboring communities’ requests for access to the company’s gigabit enabled high-speed Internet service." Officials said, "EPB offers high-speed Internet access, video programming and voice services using a fiber optic communications network that allows the company to deliver these ... (click for more)

Black Creek Developers Say They "Followed The Rules" On $9 Million TIF: To Continue Project

The developers of the Black Creek project at Aetna Mountain said Thursday they "complied precisely by the rules when we applied for and received approval of the TIF district." Doug Stein said the group plans to continue on with the project, which he said earlier would include the creation of a small town on a huge undeveloped tract on the mountain above Black Creek (formerly ... (click for more)

Cell Phones And Roundabouts

I read the article written by Chris Morgan about the use of cell phones in vehicles and the Chattanooga Roundabouts. Cell phone use in vehicles especially in crisis intersection situations is extremely dangerous. I also agree with his assessment about the roundabouts. One problem I see with roundabouts is that on the two-lane roundabouts where they are coming in from ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The NCAA’s “Division IV”

Jonathan Jensen and Brian Turner are two very smart guys. Not long ago the two sports researchers at Ohio State authored a story that appeared in the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports that focused on the most successful college football teams in the country and, earlier this week, a writer named Ben Cohen broke it down in understandable terms for a fascinating Wall Street ... (click for more)