For almost a decade, Dan Bugge threw fish at the Pike Place Market, and when the opportunity arose to buy Matt's In The Market, he moved across the street and up the stairs. His found his chef, Chester Gerl, at Place Pigalle, just a salmon-lob away. Now they've been asked to put their hands-on knowledge of seafood to use in the Gulf of Mexico, the only restaurateurs from the West Coast to be invited.
Sam Kass, the White House chef (who's turning into something of a food activist), is touring the Gulf this weekend alongside celebrity chefs John Besh (six restaurants in New Orleans), John Folse (several restaurants and a TV show, "A Taste of Louisiana") and Rick Tramonto (Tru in Chicago, among others). Also on the trip, the commissioner of the federal Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Margaret Hamburg. Their goal: to reassure the American public that seafood from the Gulf is safe to eat despite the gusher of oil that leaked from BP's Deepwater Horizon well this summer.
The FDA, along with other federal and state agencies, implemented protocols to test the waters as they were reopened to fishing over the past few weeks. "The biggest challenge at present is helping this industry get back on its feet," the official White House statement says. "That is why these prominent chefs have come together, to tell America that the Gulf is open for business."
The official party gathers in New Orleans on Sunday. Monday morning they ride shrimp and fishing boats into the Gulf, then visit shrimp docks and fish processing facilities. Monday night there's a shrimp boil prepared by the hosts and visiting chefs at a block party in St. Bernard Parish.
Says Bugge: "It's going to be an opportunity to experience one of the world's greatest seafood-producing areas firsthand with some of the most knowledgeable seafood people around."