In her seven years with Whole Foods Market, Kristina has focused on community relations - spending the last three years immersed in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas and loving the region's culture and incredible people who make these cities unique. For the third year in a row, Whole Foods Market proudly sponsored the Great American Seafood Cook-Off (GASCO) and we had a fantastic time doing it. We set up an information table on our unprecedented aquaculture standards, Whole Trade products, and Whole Deal booklets full of coupons and recipes along with a mini-store where the chefs shopped for extra ingredients. Of course, we provided special treats and samples for the attendees, chefs, judges and emcees. Chef John Folse, who is often recognized as Louisiana's Culinary Ambassador to the world, co-emceed GASCO with Sig Hansen from "Deadliest Catch"! Many fans were thrilled to meet him in person and hear his comments throughout the competition, which you may be able to watch on your public television station in the near future. The whole event stresses sustainable fisheries and local products - both are very near and dear to our hearts. Held in New Orleans, this national event kicked off with Casa Samba's Brazilian drums, dancers and stilt-walkers. The competing chefs were handpicked by their governor or selected by winning statewide competitions. The judges, recognized as the top echelon of culinary arts, came from all over the country as well. Representing Alabama, Alaska, California, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia, the GASCO Chefs shipped and cooked indigenous seafood from their respective states with a keen eye on sustainable offerings. Chefs John Varanese from Kentucky and Ed Fischer from West Virginia tapped into their creative cauldrons and cooked with seafood that many folks are not aware of or know how to cook. For instance, Varanese's culinary masterpiece was Kentucky Paddlefish Stuffed with Kentucky Shrimp, while Fischer's Appalachian Golden Trout combined Italian-seasoned Panko bread crumbs, butter, young ramps, black morel mushrooms, buttermilk, Vidalia onions, peppers and wine. At the end of the competition, the winners were announced in rather dramatic fashion! Alaska's Patrick Hoogerhyde of WildFin Seagrill placed third with Wild Alaskan King Salmon. His ingredients incorporated Alaskan alder smoked sea salt dusted Susitna Valley hash, fresh greens, smoked Alaskan porter, alder moostard vinaigrette, foraged low bush cranberry infused birch syrup molasses and more. Delicious! Placing second, New Jersey's Peter Fischbach from the Gourmet Dining Services at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark delivered Pan Seared Viking Village Day-Boat Sea Scallops. The scallops were paired with creamy chili-herb grits, warm "pickled" root vegetables, smokey apple wood bacon, micro greens and corn volute. Incroyable! More surprising was Commander's Palace Executive Chef Tory McPhail's use of sheepshead prepared with Louisiana corn, lump crabmeat and Louisiana shrimp accented with organic herbs grown on the restaurant's rooftop. The winning Creole Seafood Mixed Grill creation stunned the judges and audience as sheepshead is rarely found on a restaurant menu. McPhail emphasized the economical value and abundant supply of sheepshead. Hail Tory McPhail, the 2009 King of American Seafood! We are so glad to be able to sponsor GASCO as it truly celebrates the diversity of food and cooking styles across the country while recognizing the importance of sustainable fishing and practices and incorporating local ingredients. Plus, we love food and GASCO is quite the culinary celebration! Keep your eyes out for GASCO as it aired on more than 50 percent of the public television stations nationwide last year! More information, chef profiles and recipes are available at www.greatamericanseafoodcookoff.com.