by Veronica Del Bianco
White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford – the nation’s “first chef” – and her first assistant in the kitchen, chef Tafari Campbell, joined more than a dozen other prominent chefs from across the country for a tour of bountiful Gulf waters near Slidell, Louisiana.
The purpose – to learn first-hand about the Louisiana seafood industry and personally meet independent fishermen, many of whom are still suffering financially because of the BP oil spill.
“It’s not just about the fish itself, not just about the seafood,but its about livelihood and about the families that have really invested so much,” said Comerford.
Unlike other ambassadors from Washington, D.C., who have traveled to the Gulf Coast since the BP oil spill, Comerford already knows the value of wild caught seafood from the Gulf of Mexico. She has continued to serve it in the White House, and even featured Gulf shrimp at President Obama’s barbecue birthday dinner in August.
“I’m a seafood lover myself,” said Comerford. “And yesterday, just coming down to the different restaurants and trying everything – this is very, very good seafood down here.”
Having previously visited an organic farm to see how the livestock is raised, her colleague chef Campbell was excited to witness the work that goes into harvesting and processing the seafood he often serves.
“This is definitely a first,” said Campbell before boarding a working blue crab boat.
The morning’s blue crab harvesting demonstration had the feel of a school field trip with the visiting chefs snapping photos and learning about the extensive work the federal and state governments are developing to ensure that Louisiana seafood remains safe.
Comerford spent the majority of her time on the crab boat speaking with scientific experts including Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg and Assistant Research Scientist Richard Waller from the Center for Fisheries Research and Development located in Dauphin Island, Alabama.
Upon return to the dock, the group toured the Pontchartrain Blue Crab processing plant. Owner Gary Bauer was proud to show off his facility, which he considers “the front line” of seafood safety and quality control.
“Between the FDA and NOAA all the scientists are doing everything they can to ensure that whatever comes to the market is good for public consumption,” concluded Comerford.
“Not that they are just good for public consumption but that seafood is good quality – it’s tastes good and it’s safe. What more do you need to know?”
What more, indeed.
If Louisiana seafood is good enough for America’s White House, it’s good enough for any house in America.