The first reaction I had when I heard the news that Chef Tory McPhail had earned the title of King of Kings in the Louisiana Seafood Cookoff held in Lafayette last night was this. "How in the heck does a chef from Bozeman Montana win a dang seafood cookoff in Louisiana". You might have had the same reaction until you realize some of Chef McPhail's backstory.

Chef McPhail might currently operate an eatery in Bozeman, Revelry Plates + Pours but his pedigree and his background come from one of Louisiana's most storied restaurants. McPhail is the former Executive Chef at Commander's Palace in New Orleans. Okay, you can take the boy out of Louisiana but you can't take "the Louisiana" out of the boy, right?

Chef McPhail's entry, a Sheepshead with shrimp and crab, garnished with a shrimp and tasso henica incorporating his/her mystery ingredient of Bulldog Pepper Jelly Roasted Pecan, flambéed fresh sweet crabmeat with summer corn glazed with fresh whiskey, all on top of a creole sauce, best nine other previous Louisiana Seafood Cookoff Champions.

In a press release, Chef McPhail expounded on his dish and why he felt it would go over so well with the judges.

The winning dish tonight was a lemon-seared sheepshead, which is a beautiful fish rounded out with the fish’s diet of shrimp and fresh crabmeat, fresh corn, local tomatoes, and a nice herb salad. It’s just a good honest Louisiana dish made with amazing, great Louisiana seafood.

Rounding out the Top Three from last night's competition were the entries from Chef Chef Cody Carroll of Hot Tails in New Roads. Third place went to Chef Chris Lusk of the Kimpton Hotel Fontenot in New Orleans.

The Louisiana Seafood Cookoff is sponsored each year by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. It's the fourth year the event has been held in Lafayette. Again this year's competition was held in conjunction with the Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission's annual celebration of locally owned Lafayette restaurants, Eat Lafayette.

Since we are on the subject of Louisiana food, if you're going to call yourself a Louisiana cook, you have to know how to make this dish.

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