For the fourth year in a row, Whole Foods Market proudly sponsored the Great American Seafood Cook-Off (GASCO) and featured a mini-store that displayed our exclusive 365 Everyday Value brand along with a beautiful spread of produce that included local peppers, okra, eggplant and peaches. Held in New Orleans and opening with Casa Samba's Brazilian drums, dancers and stilt-walkers, GASCO featured chefs handpicked by their governor or those who won statewide competitions. Ewell Smith, the Louisiana Seafood Promotions & Marketing Board executive director, introduced the judges from around the country who are recognized as the top echelon of culinary arts. Co-emcees Chef John Folse, who is often recognized as Louisiana's Culinary Ambassador to the world, and Jeff Corwin, host of Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin Experience and Food Network's Extreme Cuisine, kicked off the competition which stresses sustainable fisheries and local products. Representing Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and West Virginia, the GASCO Chefs shipped and cooked indigenous seafood from their respective states with a sustainable focus. During the competition, the chefs shopped the Whole Foods Market mini-store for final ingredients. Our table was incredibly busy with special samples, information on Whole Foods Market's unprecedented aquaculture standards, Whole Trade products, Whole Planet Foundation, Health Starts Here program, and Whole Deal booklets full of coupons and recipes. The lagniappe Mini-Plinko game thrilled attendees and offered an array of prizes with a limited-edition recyclable shopping tote as the grand booty! As GASCO concluded, the winners were announced in rather dramatic fashion, with red, white and blue confetti falling from the ceiling at the crowning moment! For the first time, there was a tie for third place between Maine's Chef Mackenzie Arrington of Morrison's Maine Course in Portland, ME and New Jersey's Chef Peter Fischbach of Gourmet Dining Services at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, NJ. Chef Arrington served Pan Seared North Atlantic Red Crab Cakes with Citrus Aioli, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis and Micro Okra and Tangerine Greens, which matched Chef Fischbach's Jersey Coast - a trio of Jersey-caught lobster, black bass, and sea scallop. Capturing second was Chef Wesley True of True Restaurant in Mobile, AL, presenting Gulf Shrimp Two Ways with Jumbo Lump Crab, Salad of Local Yellow Watermelon, Martini Olive, Cucumbers, and Heirloom Tomatoes with Macadamia Coconut Puree. Drum role, please….The 2010 King of American Seafood is Chef Dean Max of 3030 Ocean at Marriott Harbor Beach and Spa Resort in Fort Lauderdale, FL! His prize-winning creation had a tantalizing twist to the BLT and was a Sebastian Inlet Clams BBLT (Bacon, Basil, Lettuce and Tomato). Congratulations and Hail Chef Max! Whole Foods Market is proud to sponsor GASCO as this event celebrates the diversity of food and cooking styles across the country while recognizing the importance of sustainability and incorporating local ingredients. This year's event was even more important in light of the Gulf Oil Spill. We decided to donate the mini-store produce and products to Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana and support families in the parishes directly affected by the oil spill. 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. In her eight years with Whole Foods Market, Kristina has focused on community relations --- spending the last four years immersed in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas and loving the region's culture and incredible people who make these cities unique.