Guy Fieri Helps Celebrate Gulf Oil Spill Anniversary

This weekend I’ll be covering the Guy Fieri Road Show in New Orleans.  I thought I would share here a short film I shot in April at a dinner I was invited to that celebrated the efforts of the volunteers who helped during Gulf Oil Spill clean up.

One year a blow-out preventer on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig failed.  Just weeks before federal inspectors had given the rig the “all clear.”  They were wrong and because of that mistake eleven people lost their lives.  Over the next few months 200 million gallons of crude oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico destroying both economy and ecology for 2 million Gulf Coast residents.  So far none of the responsible parties have offered much except broken promises but the people of the region have battled back just like they did after Ivan, just like they did after Katrina and just like they did after Rita.To celebrate the return of the Gulf and to honor the heroes of the oil spill a party of 500 took to the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama for dinner, music and laughter.  Among the honored guests were Mayor Robert Craft of Gulf Shores, Mayor Tony Kennon of neighboring Orange Beach, State Attorney General “Big” Luther Strange, U.S. Representative Jo Bonner and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.  But the three stars at this affair were not politicians but chefs – Lucy Buffett (owner of Lulu’s at the Wharf and kid sister of singer Jimmy Buffett), Chef Pete Blohme (owner of Panini Pete’sin Fairhope) and Food Network Star Guy Fieri.  Oh, there was one more star, the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.Enjoy this short film in honor of those who gave their money, their time and especially their lives on 4/20/10.

7 Questions with Alton Brown

Alton Brown is one of the most popular and beloved TV chefs in the genre.  His mix of geeky science proficiency and every-man appeal have made the Georgia boy an icon of food television world wide.  It’s nice to profile someone everyone knows because it allows me more room to address the events of our meeting.

Cheflebrities Stuart Reb Donald and Alton Brown at Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-offOne year ago the good people of Dauphin Island, Alabama had just put on their first ever gumbo cook-off and were getting ready for the busy tourist and sport fishing season that annually brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to this town of 1300 residents.  A month later there was an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig.  As a result eleven men died and an entire season of industry was lost to a third of the nation’s coastline.

As injurious as the spill itself was to communities like Dauphin Island the problem was compounded by a lackadaisical response by British Petroleum and the dysfunctional efforts of the Obama administration which exponentially increased the damage from the spill.  The final cherry on top of this bureaucratic Sundae is the reluctance of Gulf Coast Claims Facility administrator Kenneth Feinberg to distribute the $20 billion set aside for those injured by the spill.  To date only 5% of the money has been paid to the rightful victims, while Feinberg’s fee has been doubled by British Petroleum as reward for a job well done.

The husband and wife team of Dana Popoff and Marion Laney, both integral parts of the Good Eats production staff, live on Dauphin Island.  It was while discussing the Gulf Crisis with their boss, the aforementioned Mr. Brown, that the cheflebrity asked, “What can I do to help?”  On March 26th of this year Alton Brown was the guest of honor at the 2nd Annual Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off at which I was scheduled to be a judge.

Attendance at this year’s cook-off was more than triple that of last year’s event.  What’s more Brown’s visit assured the people of the beaten but not broken Gulf Coast that even if BP and the government don’t care about them there are people out there that do.  I was lucky enough to spend the better part of a day in the presence of Alton and to see firsthand the effect his celebrity had on the people of the community.

For his part Alton was kind enough to answer 7 Questions.

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1. What brings you to Lower Alabama?

Alton Brown on Wannabe TV ChefI’m a fan of American seafood and even bigger fan of American fisherman.  We have a perception in this country right now that something that is imported from people we don’t know, in lands we don’t understand and languages we don’t care about are making better seafood than we have here in America.  I’m here to help stamp that out.  I came down here to let people know that American seafood is back.  Gulf seafood is back.

2. What can people do to help change things?

Tell your congressman.  Write people.  Get mad.  Refuse to eat in restaurants that serve imported seafood.  This is America.  I don’t think we should import seafood at all.  America pretty much has ocean all the freaking way around it.  Countries that cannot feed themselves go down.

3. What’s your favorite food?

I’ve learned a very important lesson as a married man.  My favorite food is whatever my wife is going to make next, regardless of whether I like it or not.

4. Being as how this is a gumbo cook-off the question begs to be asked, what’s the best gumbo you’ve ever had?

The best gumbo that I’ve ever personally encountered, it probably would have been in a small town near Lafayette, Louisiana.

5. So Bobby Flay said when he did the original Iron Chef in Japan that they were actually given five possible secret ingredients.  Is that the same for Iron Chef America?

Here’s the deal.  About two weeks before the competition the chefs are given a list of ten possibilities and they have to plan for the ten possibilities.

6. What do you do with all the food you cook on Good Eats?

All the food at the end of the day generally goes to a food bank or a shelter.  Unless it’s really crappy.  Food Network’s got a really strong policy about that as well.

7. You film Good Eats in Atlanta, have you ever considered doing the show from the Food Network Studios?

I’m a Southerner.  I’ve had a lot of offers to move to Los Angeles or New York and ah, I’m not gonna do that...

Emeril Talk’s Gulf Oil Spill

Official Statement from Emeril’s Homebase on Safe Condition of Gulf Coast Seafood
Posted by: Jeff Hinson

NEW ORLEANS (May 4, 2010) – Chef/Restaurateur Emeril Lagasse’s three restaurants in New Orleans – Emeril’s, NOLA and Emeril’s Delmonico – remain open and unaffected by a recent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and continue to serve safe seafood from unaffected areas of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Louisiana Departments of Health and Hospitals, and Wildlife and Fisheries have issued a precautionary restriction on select state offshore fishing areas and federal waters for the portion of the Gulf of Mexico impacted by the spill. Seafood will not be harvested from those areas.


Brown Tide: A Day on the Bayou

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.”

Folks here have little trust in the government.  For years they have endured stringent federal regulations supposedly designed to preserve the environment and protect American consumers.  Meanwhile that same government has turned a blind eye to an avalanche of imported seafood teeming with toxic chemicals. The post-Katrina response from FEMA that had many in New Orleans crying foul would have seemed like a Godsend here.  And now the same government which abandoned them five years ago has again drug its feet leaving the town in peril.  The Obama administration told them the leak was a mere 1000 barrels a day when in reality it was 200,000.  To them there is little difference between the current regime and its predecessor.

My fellow judges, locals both, regaled me with stories of the Blessing during the Reagen years.  The whole town would pack the church yard standing shoulder to shoulder, a sea of people joined in jubilation and thanksgiving.  Those days are gone now.  Five years have passed since Katrina and the town is just now starting to look like it did prior to her arrival.  Now this.

Of course the D.C. elitists have been on every talk show they could find saying that you cannot compare Deepwater Horizon to Katrina.  I dare you to stand on the Bayou and say that without the luxury of a team of Secret Service agents.  The great irony of the day was the uncharacteristic wind blowing directly off the Gulf.  People around here recognize that strong and hot breeze; it is just like the one that hits as a hurricane is barring down on you.  But this is a storm of a different complexion and its effects will not be measured in years but decades.

Amid all of the doom and gloom there was still a festive spirit among the crowd.  They lined up to try the foods from their new neighbors from Central America and Southeast Asia.  Blues musicians took the bandstand while people funneled into the church to sample the seafood that built the town.  Artisans had erected a tent city to hock their wares as families ventured to the wharf to look at the shrimp boats decorated like Mardi Gras floats.  Everywhere children laughed in played.

Virtually every resident in Bayou La Batre either works on a boat or at a business that’s sole purpose is to support the fishing industry.  Fishing is the only game in town.  Those of us who are a little long in the tooth realize we were saying goodbye to something.  Before leaving, I spoke with Mark Kent a writer for the Mobile Press Register assigned to cover the event and he expressed his concerns saying that more than the economic and ecological devastation he was worried about the spirit of the people.


The National Audubon Society is recruiting volunteers in the fight to save “ecologically sensitive areas.” Visit their website to fill out a volunteer registration form.  Additionally, OilSpillVolunteers.com provides the opportunity to sign up and assist with the cleanup.  While their website says volunteers are not yet needed, Mobile Baykeeper is urging anyone who is interested to call their office at 251-433-4229 or e-mail info@mobilebaykeeper.org.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less

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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