Time and two fish are of the essence
New Bedford waterfront fest tests chefs, celebrates business
NEW BEDFORD - There are cooks who are flummoxed at the thought of cooking a whole fish. Henry Bousquet and Peter Doire are not among them, and it’s a good thing.
On Sunday, the two chefs were pitted against each other in a Seafood Throwdown at New Bedford’s Working Waterfront Festival, an annual event that celebrates the region’s commercial fishing industry. They were tasked with preparing a dish using a “surprise seafood ingredient,’’ items from the festival’s farmers’ market, and precious little else, all in one hour. This battle of skills, speed, and ingenuity went right down to the wire.
Seafood Throwdowns are the brainchild of Niaz Dorry, of the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance; Sunday’s event was a collaboration between the festival organizers and the alliance. NAMA has hosted these throwdowns, which engage the public and help raise awareness about fishing-industry issues, at festivals and farmers’ markets from New York to Maine.
At 3 p.m., the mystery seafood was revealed: pollock, a tasty but underused species. The chefs, with a shopping budget of $25, were whisked away on golf carts to the farmers’ market, then driven back to the contest stage to cook.
Dishes were judged on taste, presentation, originality, and use of the whole fish. Bousquet, a culinary arts instructor at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, presented the panel with pollock fillet over a corn, caper, and pepper relish, topped with a bit of lobster and crisped fish skin. Doire, an area chef for Legal Sea Foods, created olive-oil-poached pollock over a squash and potato hash, with herb salad and a ragout of leeks.
In the end, Doire’s dish edged out Bousquet’s by the thinnest of margins, garnering 99 points to Bousquet’s 98. But the big winner, of course, was the fishing industry. The throwdown sent a positive message about seafood to a cheering, standing-room-only audience. “We try to reach people through their heads and their hearts,’’ said Dorry. “But this way, we get to them through their stomachs.’’
Jane Dornbusch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.