IF YOU GO
What: Cast Iron Cook-Off at Chattanooga Market.
When: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Where: First Tennessee Pavilion, 1826 Reggie White Blvd.
* 11:30 a.m. Chefs are introduced and begin shopping for ingredients within Chattanooga Market.
* 12:30 p.m. Cooking begins. Alton Brown will interview chefs to learn what they are preparing.
* 2:30 p.m. Cast Iron Cook-off 2011 winner is announced.
If you enjoy cooking and love seafood, plan to be at the Chattanooga Market's Cast Iron Cook-Off on Sunday.
According to Paul Smith, general manager, "There has never been this level of culinary talent competing in Chattanooga before."
And it gets even better, he said. The guest celebrity chef is Alton Brown of Food Network's "Iron Chef America."
"The Cast Iron Cook-Off is very similar to the [FiveStar] Food Fight [cooking competition]. The big difference this year is it will be emceed by Alton Brown," Smith said. "He is in town for the entire weekend to help promote the Tennessee Aquarium's Serve & Protect initiative."
According to the Aquarium's website, the Cast Iron Cook-Off, sponsored by Lodge Manufacturing, will require local chefs to create "culinary masterpieces" using sustainable seafood, surrounded by fresh ingredients purchased at the market. Marketgoers can watch the professionals select, prepare, combine and cook the ingredients while racing the clock. One dish will be named Best of the Market.
The Aquarium's Serve & Protect sustainable seafood initiative is geared toward educating area residents to "look beyond our region and recognize that what we put on our plates also impacts the world ocean," the website noted. "Globally, one-third of all fished species have collapsed. People currently eat too many fish from too few species. There are great options available that can lead to positive change."
"This should be a fun, free event for Chattanooga and a chance to see one of America's premier chefs," Smith said. "The local participating chefs are a who's who in town."
Competing chefs represent BlueWater Grille, Broad Street Grille, Greenlife Grocery, Hennen's, St. John's, Table 2, 212 Market and Porter's Steakhouse.
John Palacio of Porter's has won the competition the last two years.
"I'm the running champion, so it does put more pressure on me," he said. "I don't like to lose. I have high standards like every chef participating. It's hard to go with a plan because a wrench will be thrown in somewhere. You just go in there knowing how to cook. Cooking against these people isn't easy because these guys are good chefs."
Will Dunaway, BlueWater Grille
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: I love it. I'm all for what they're doing.
Daniel Lindley, St. John's
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: The Aquarium's initiative, and ones like it, are crucial for preserving and protecting our ocean species for now and generations to come.
* Thoughts on Alton Brown: [He] is an amazing cook and educator. It is an honor to have him involved.
Charlie Loomis, Greenlife Grocery
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: I have read a lot on this subject and have pushed hard to live by these same principles.
Susan Moses, 212 Market
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: I have been thinking about this stuff since I worked on commercial fishing boats in the Pacific Northwest as a cook/deckhand in the late 1970s, while earning my university degree. Being frugal with resources and protecting the environment was a built-in condition.
John Palacio, Porter's Steakhouse
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: I think it's a great idea. We Americans are so caught up thinking salmon is the only fish to eat. We need to learn about other fish. Catfish and lobster are good. Our palates need to be teased once in a while with something different. I look forward to people to ask for a change. I'm now doing yellowtail snapper and oysters.
Matt Pinner, Broad Street Grille
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: It's great that the Aquarium is doing this for our area. We at the Broad Street Grille have been following the Monterey Aquarium (in California) that's geared more toward the Pacific.
Eric Taslimi, Table Two
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: The Serve & Protect initiative makes it easer for the consumer to spot sustainable products, which I think would make them more willing to purchase it. As a chef, I like the program because the more educated the public is about different types of seafood, the more options I have at the restaurant.
Josh Wool, Hennen's
* Thoughts on the Serve & Protect initiative: It's great. Being from Charleston, I've been involved in sustainable seafood for a number of years. It's a great program to educate local diners to the perils that are going on in the ocean outside the local area.
Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...