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Food & Drink

Gulf to Table: New Orleans Seafood

New Orleans seafood is so good because of the way it’s sourced. In a word? Fresh.

Fish, crab, oysters, shrimp, crawfish … they’re options on nearly any respectable New Orleans menu, and they’re all widely available thanks to a commitment to fresh, Louisiana seafood on behalf of local chefs, fishermen, and foodies. The Gulf of Mexico and other local natural waterways comprise our metaphorical and literal backyard here in New Orleans, meaning high-quality seafood is practically a birthright. But its availability belies just how painstaking the process can be. That’s why we spoke with chefs like John Besh, Dickie Brennan, Brian Landry, and Tenney Flynn to gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to produce truly Gulf to table cuisine.

Check out the video (scroll all the way down) and follow along on our photo essay with Chef Flynn, who showed us how to break down a spear-caught cobia fish while also prepping New Orleans seafood favorites like crab cakes and bluefin tuna. It’s all part of the “receiving process,” which, as Chef Landry explains, is when “the fish are literally landed and then delivered to the kitchens.”

You’ll never balk at the price of seafood again.

Fresh Catch with Tenney Flynn

A spear-diving fisherman caught this fresh Gulf cobia hours before it was delivered to Chef Tenney Flynn at GW Fins. The fish will be broken down into entree-size portions in time for diners to enjoy the very same evening.
Chef Tenney Flynn, pictured, begins the process of breaking down the spear-caught cobia fish. Flynn admits he doesn’t get to go fishing as often as he’d like these days, but relies heavily on expert fishermen to bring in the freshest Gulf seafood to his French Quarter restaurant, GW Fins. A portion of the menu at GW Fins is a “working menu,” which means that it changes based on what seafood comes in during the receiving process each morning.
As Chef Flynn works on the cobia, another chef prepares “Scalibut,” somewhat of a signature dish on GW Fins’ menu. The dish is comprised of Nantucket sea scallops and Alaskan halibut delicately layered to resemble something of a savory Napoleon. The scallops are arranged to mimic scales, creating a crust atop the halibut that is sauteed and served with lobster risotto and pea shoot butter. Though the dish doesn’t have Gulf seafood as its star, it still showcases the meticulous standards and process indicative of so many acclaimed local seafood restaurants.
Gulf-caught bluefin tuna is another fresh item in the receiving line. These giant, beautiful fish can weigh hundreds of pounds and clock in at more than six feet long. Though popular for sushi, bluefin tuna at GW Fins might show up as crudo, tartare, or a tuna steak seared rare.
GW Fins has a standard menu in addition to a working menu, where entrees rotate based on what’s fresh and what seafood makes its way into the kitchen that day.
The cobia is cut and arranged with its mise en place.
Cobia hits the grill. Wood underneath infuses the fish with a subtle, smoky flavor.
As the cobia grills, Chef Flynn hand-picks lump crab meat to remove any bits of shell or debris. It’s a labor-intensive extra step that’s indicative of the meticulous standards of chefs like Flynn and others in New Orleans.
Fresh parsley (that’s Flynn chopping) adds a bright flavor and color to the finished dish.
The finished dish, from Gulf to table: wood-grilled Gulf cobia with melon, crab fritters, and pepper jelly. 

All photos by Paul Broussard.

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