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Louisiana Seafood crowns a new king

Chef Cory Bahr passed his crown and the title of “King of Louisiana Seafood” to Chef Keith Frentz of LOLA in Covington, La. at the 5th Annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off.

The cook-off, held by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, was part of the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, an annual five-day festival.

Ten chefs from around Louisiana prepared one entrée apiece featuring Louisiana seafood. Each was looking to impress a panel of six judges - experienced Louisiana chefs, restaurateurs and food-magazine editors.

Aside from the seafood, use of local and seasonal ingredients were heavy themes among the dishes served:

Restaurant & LocationDish
Chef Michael GottliebRed Fish Grill
New Orleans, La.
Jumbo lump Louisiana crab, creole cream cheese and spring onion crepe soufflé with a salad of roasted local chantrelles and sherry crab cream
Chef Anthony Felan


Wine Country Bistro
Shreveport, La.
Louisiana popcorn rice-dusted Gulf grouper, corn maque choux, lump Louisiana crab-stuffed fried green tomato, Abita Amber tempura, Louisiana shrimp head stuffed with chilled lump Louisiana crab and Gulf shrimp salad sauce meuniere
Chef Drew Dzejak
(3rd place)
The Grill Room at Windsor Court Hotel
New Orleans, La.
Brown butter American red snapper filet with truffle Louisiana shellfish ravioli, English pea puree and French breakfast radish
Chef Scott VarnedoeStroubes Seafood and Steaks
Baton Rouge, La.
Pan seared Gulf of Mexico grouper set atop boursin black pepper gnocchi, tossed in a Louisiana grilled corn jumbo lump crabmeat sherry cream, finished with a tasso creole tomato ragout, lemon basil foam and toasted pecan brown butter
Chef Cody CarrollHot Tails Louisiana Crawfish House
New Roads, La.

“Seafood Revival"  Gulf shrimp wrapped in shredded phyllo and flash fried over Tabasco Habanero & crawfish fat pasta, served with sweet corn, oyster liquor and drunken goat cheese nage with poached oysters and blue crab. Finished with a clear pepper jelly sauce.

Chef Michael SichelGalatoire’s
New Orleans, La.
Pave of lemon fish (cobia) with Louisiana shrimp buerre blanc, served over potato puree with ghost pepper caviar and a shrimp croquette
 Chef Guy SockriderTomas Bistro
New Orleans, La.
Pan seared Gulf swordfish with vodka shrimp sauce and crispy fried sweet potatoes
Chef Jaime HernandezJuban’s
Baton Rouge, La.
Louisiana seafood and sunflower salad with honey lavender vinaigrette
Chef Keith Frentz
(1st place)
Covington, La.
“Friday Lunch Special” Cornmeal dusted wild-caught Des Allemands catfish, Camellia red bean and local crawfish succotash, braised collards and house-made tartar sauce
Executive Chef Kevin Templet
(2nd place)
Thibodaux, La.
Zapp's Cajun Crawtator crusted black drum topped with Louisiana crab and corn relish, on top of Louisiana crawfish, bacon and asparagus risotto, served with a chilled asparagus and micro greens salad with chive vinaigrette.The judges and organizers were impressed with Frentz’s winning recipe, “Friday Lunch Special,” featuring wild-caught local catfish. The traditionally down-home dish was simply yet beautifully prepared, and stood up against even the classiest competitors.

"It was clean, simple and not over-thought," Keith Frentz said, to the nodding assent of his wife and partner, Nealy Frentz. "It's home food that people want to eat."

Keith and Nealy Frentz have cooked together for nine years. They met on the job at Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans, opening their own spot, LOLA, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Located in the old train depot in downtown Covington, La., their cuisine—like the competition winner—focuses on home-style food prepared in upscale fashion, minus the higher price tag.

"Chef Frentz's use of wild-caught Louisiana catfish was unique and the dish really showcased Louisiana seafood," said judge Chef David Guas, a native Louisianian and owner of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Va.  "Combined with the succotash, it was a dish that was rustic and delicious."

"That was just a case of doing simple food but with flawless technique," said judge Chef Randy Cheramie, executive director of the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute.

Judges also included Errol Laborde, Editor-in-Chief of Louisiana Life Magazine; Holly Goetting, Executive Chef of Charley G's in Lafayette; Denise Mickelsen, Senior Editor of Fine Cooking Magazine and myself, Amanda Westbrooks, Online Editor of Restaurant Business Magazine.

Frentz and his wife will have a busy year ahead of them. Not only are they going on to compete in the Great American Seafood Cookoff in August, Frentz will be the face of Louisiana seafood at events throughout the year.

"It was important for me to use products from the local farmers market and wild-caught Louisiana catfish, because you don't see it very often on menus," said Frentz.  "I am really looking forward to representing Louisiana seafood in the upcoming year."

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