Local chef competing alongside daughter in annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off

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By Hannah Richardson and information from Office to the Lt. Gov.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board announced the selection of chefs from across the state to represent their areas in the 13th annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off. For safety reasons, this year’s event will have a different look, switching from the kitchen stadium format to virtual and include a chance for viewers to participate.

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Among the 10 competing chefs is Ben Fidelak of the Mariner’s Restaurant in Natchitoches. He also competed in the cook-off in 2017, in Lafayette. Chef Fidelak’s passion for cooking started at an early age while working as a line cook in his father’s restaurant in Northern Ontario, Canada. His skills were honed years later when he opened Maison Louisiane Catering in 2001 and then The Levee Restaurant in 2016 with his wife and business partner Keri. They, along with their children, Lauren and Graeme, have spent many years traveling the globe in search of adventure and unique dining experiences.

In 2018, Fidelak sailed from Cape Town, South Africa, to French Guyana traveling more than 5,800 nautical miles stopping at many countries along the way. Fidelak’s culinary focus is to create signature dishes using inspiration from his travels while infusing a Southern Flair, true to the historic roots of Louisiana cuisine. Their dining, wine and cocktail menus have been crafted to reflect the global influence of their travels with offerings from some of their favorite destinations such as Croatia, South Africa, Switzerland, France, Poland, Greece, Italy, Austria and more. The Fidelaks are continuing with renovations to the Mariner’s Restaurant and aim to officially open mid-November.

Article from Natchitoches Times, Feb. 2009 featuring the duo’s win at Battle of the Paddle.

For the Louisiana Seafood Cook-off, Fidelak will have his daughter, Lauren, by his side as his sous-chef. The pair actually took home the winning trophy at the Battle for the Paddle Chili Cook-off at NSU in 2009, gaining a near-perfect score for Fidelak’s Ring of Fire chicken chili. Fidelak said this new format for the seafood cook-off would play to their strengths. “It’s for the at-home chefs,” he said. Airing the competition online this year comes with the added benefit of potentially garnering more viewers and encouraging viewers to be more engaged and cook these recipes. “Ours is very simple; we’re doing carbonara with homemade noodles and it’s something any one can do at home,” said Fidelak. He will make the sauce while Lauren will make the noodles. The pair will be practicing this weekend to prepare for the competition next week.

The main competition will be recorded Monday, Sept. 28 and Tuesday, Sept. 29, with each chef being assigned a time slot to prepare and cook their dish, then present it to three judges for scoring. Judges will score dishes on presentation, creativity, composition, craftsmanship and flavor. Additionally, each dish will be prepared from a recipe, which includes ingredients commonly found in grocery stores, and include instructions on how to prepare the dish so viewers can recreate it in their own kitchens.

See information here: https://www.louisianaseafood.com/louisiana-seafood-cook

“It’s unfortunate we will not be able to gather together for this great celebration of Louisiana seafood and cuisine, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to celebrate and crown a King or Queen of Louisiana Seafood,” said Nungesser. “Since we can’t be together, we are bringing the competition to the people of Louisiana through a virtual event, recipes they can recreate in their kitchens, and a chance to show these chefs their appreciation for continuing the great culinary traditions that have made Louisiana a place where you can Feed Your Soul.”

New for 2020 is the addition of a “People’s Choice” award. The preparation and cooking of each dish will be recorded and posted to the Louisiana Seafood website and Facebook page for everyone to view, along with step-by-step instructions from each chef for home preparation. Viewers will be directed to a website where they can vote for their favorite dish or chef.

Chef videos will be posted for viewing Thursday, Oct. 15 and “People’s Choice” voting will be open until Monday, Oct. 27. Then Wednesday, Oct. 28, join the finale of the 2020 Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off “LASCO@Home” Edition online for the announcement the “People’s Choice” winner and the 2020 King or Queen of Louisiana Seafood. For more information, visit LouisianaSeafood.com.