Brown Tide: A Day on the Bayou

The following is an excerpt from a piece I did after visiting Bayou La Batre, Alabama this weekend.  Bayou La Batre is one of the small fishing villages threatened by the Gulf Oil Slick.  The full article is available at

For over half a century the people of Bayou La Batre, Alabama have gathered for a ceremony that is both a celebration and a memorial.  They pray for a safe and bountiful fishing season and remember those who have lost their lives in seasons past.  This small fishing village does not have the sugar white beaches and sparkling high-rise condominiums so often associated with the Third Coast.  For every Destin there are a dozen Bayou La Batre’s.

The people who live here work hard just to scrape by in a profession that is equal parts heritage and obsession.  Ask anyone who has ever made a living on a boat and they will tell you once the sea gets in your blood there is no getting it out.  Things have been particularly rough in Bayou La Batre after equal devastation from both Ivan and Katrina and now the looming oil spill.

My reason for venturing to the Bayou was to be a judge in the annual Gumbo Cook-off.  But as the event neared it was obvious that I would be experiencing something much more than a gaggle of gumbo.  Any thoughts I had of a blog post filled with flowery descriptions of spices and the richness of broth were now metaphorically obscured by crude oil.   In this town full of rugged people I saw despair etched on the faces of everyone.  As one festival organizer told me, the oil slick has, “certainly been the topic of conversation.”


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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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