As the headlines about Gulf seafood safety have become increasingly skeptical, the White House and U.S. Food and Drug Administration are upping their effort to boost the image of the region’s seafood in the wake of a devastating oil spill.
Executive White House Chef Christeta Comerford and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will join a group of chefs in New Orleans today for a Gulf seafood cooking fest “with a special focus on safety,” according to Obamafoodorama, a blog focused on the administration’s food policy initiatives.
According to ObFo, the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board is sponsoring the events, which formally kicked off yesterday. Well-known New Orleans chefs John Besh and John Folse are leading the local delegation, and chefs from across America have been invited to participate.
“The biggest challenge at present is helping this industry get back on its feet,” read the invite to chefs. “That is why these prominent chefs have come together, to tell America that the Gulf is open for business.”
The entourage of chefs will head out on fishing and shrimping boats and tour shrimp and seafood processing facilities, according to Eddie Gehman Kohan, editor of Obamafoodorama “There will be a special dockside briefing from Hamburg, who will detail all that FDA and NOAA have done to ensure that seafood from reopened federal fishing waters has been tested and is safe.”
Comerford and participating chefs will also work at restaurants across the city to whip up traditional Gulf seafood dishes. Culminating in a Block Party shrimp boil with St. Bernard Project, a non-profit that helps those displaced by Hurricane Katrina return to the area.
In recent weeks, the administration has worked to assuage fears about the safety of Gulf seafood, which is one of the region’s most important industries as well as a central component of its cuisine and culture.
The First Family dined on regional seafood during their mini-vacation to Panama City, Florida in mid-August, just a week after the White House hosted the New Orleans Saints to honor their Super Bowl victory. During the ceremony President Obama touted seafood from the region.
“With the ongoing reopening of Gulf fisheries, we’re excited that fishermen can go back to work and Americans can confidently and safely enjoy Gulf seafood once again,” said President Obama in his remarks. “We’re certainly going to enjoy it here at the White House.”
To further assuage fears about oil-tainted seafood, the champion football team served Gulf shrimp to the White House press corps and staff, an event which reportedly produced a “stampede of journalists.”
Vice President Joe Biden, First Lady Michelle Obama, and President Obama have all publicly dined on Gulf seafood in the past month.