The stage was set, the time was ripe, onlookers crowded the stage in anticipation of the Awards Ceremony for the 2006 Great American Seafood Cook. It was Sunday afternoon in New Orleans and the event couldn't have spoken more eloquently for domestic seafood.
On stage Master of Ceremonies Louisiana Chef John Besh peeled back the lip of the envelope, glanced out at the crowd, and announced (with all the expected panache), "And the winner of this year's Great American Seafood Cook Off is Chef Justin Timineri of Florida."
Chef Justin stepped proudly to the front of the stage where 2005 winner Randy Evans of Texas crowned Timineri King of American Seafood.
The crowd broke into a rousing applause. Bill Hogarth, director of the Office of Fisheries for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - the event sponsor - beamed as he presided on stage and Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and event producer, cheered with the crowd.
Timineri shared the glory and the limelight with his assistant Joshua Butler, executive chef for the governor of Florida. Executive Chef Frank Brigtsen of Louisiana and part owner of Brigtsen's Restaurant in New Orleans was also in the winners' circle. Brigtsen held the second place trophy high and Executive Chef Tim Thomas garnered the third place trophy for the state of Georgia.
Chef Timineri's champion dish featured Florida's finest seafood with an exotic Caribbean flair: Crispy Pan-seared Snapper, Passion Fruit & Coconut Cream, Citrus Fennel Salad, garnished with Jumbo Shrimp and topped with Spicy Mango Jam.
When all was said and done, the chefs had a wonderful visit to the Big Easy. In this time of struggle, the chefs made a significant contribution to the rebirth of the city's famous food culture.
Twenty contenders for the title flew in from across the nation: Alabama, John Hamme; Alaska, Naomi Everett; California, John Nye; Colorado, Troy Guard; Delaware, James Lauser; Florida, Justin Timineri; Georgia, Tim Thomas; Kentucky, Jay Denham; Louisiana, Frank Brigtsen; Maryland, Tim Recher; Massachusetts, Brian Flagg; Michigan, Joseph Grech; Mississippi, Robert St. John; Missouri, Tim Grandinetti; New York, Douglas Gulija; NOAA, Laura Rogers; North Carolina, Shawn Wellersdick; Oregon, Pascal Sauton; Texas, Larry Perdido; Washington, Carrie Carlsteen.
Sponsors of this exciting event were NOAA, Shell Oil, Budweiser, Tabasco Brands, Southwest Cargo, Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, Seafood Business Magazine, Wild Catch Magazine, National Fisheries Institute, Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation, Wild American Shrimp, Maryland Seafood, Texas Shrimp, and Loubat Restaurant Equipment.
Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation assembled the sterling line up of judges including Bill Hogarth; executive chefs Susan Spicer and Shawn McClain, James Beard Foundation awards recipients; Julia Rutland, senior editor of Coastal Living Magazine; and Donna Florio, senior writer Southern Living Magazine. John Connelly, president of National Fisheries Institute, served as auditor.
Contact information for the three winners follows:
Florida, King Justin Timineri, 850-487-0720, firstname.lastname@example.org 
Louisiana, Frank Brigtsen, 504-554-1900, email@example.com 
Georgia, Tim Thomas, 912-638-5850, TimThomas@seaisland.com 
For bios, recipes, and more details, visit www.greatamericanseafoodcookoff.com 
For more information, contact Sara Ann Harris at 504-838-1170.