Red snapper to the world: Destin Seafood showcased at International food event

Savannah Vasquez
Chef Jim Shirah displays the correct way to filet Red Snapper at the World Food Championships 2015 held in Kissimmee.

Destin was recently represented in a big way at the World Food Championships held in Kissimmee.

Jim Shirah, the executive chef for Dewey Destin’s Seafood Restaurant was invited to the international food event by state program, Fresh from Florida and local company Ariel Seafoods Inc. His job as a sponsor to the event, was to present the proper way to filet and prepare American red snapper.

“We were there showcasing Gulf red snapper under the new management and to inform everybody that it is available year-round,” Shirah said of the event that took place during the first week of November. “We talked about red snapper and Fish Trax, which is something they can do to research their fish. I did presentations on cleaning and preparing red snapper for purveyors to sample.”

The booth Shirah and his Sous Chef Charles Lee manned was mainly showcasing Destin and the fact that under the red snapper Individual Fishing Quota Program which launched in 2007, red snapper is now available to commercial fishermen year-round through a highly monitored fishing system. The red snapper used during the showcase was all caught on local Destin boat, the Alleluia with Capt. Kerry Hurst.

“Red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico is shared equally between commercial and recreational fishermen,” explained David Krebs the owner of Ariel Seafoods Inc. “From 1993-2006 we fished in a derby-style system for red snapper and the markets would glut for the first 10 days of each month until our portion of the quota was caught. It really was horrible and it left a void in the restaurants for the last 20 days each month. It wasn’t good for the fish, the fishermen or the restaurants.”

Krebs explained that in 2007, the government launched a new system by creating a mathematical formula for each commercial fishing area by taking the weight of red snapper caught in the best 10 years and averaging it into a reasonable yearly amount.

“You took your best 10 years of landing red snapper from 1990 to 2004 and from that came a formula of what your allocation would be. What that does is it allows the fishermen to go fishing when he wants too, when the fish is in demand and when the weather is good.”

Now, under the new system each fisherman must call ahead before fishing for red snapper and alert the government, giving a three-hour notification so the fish offload can be monitored.

“It’s one of the most accountable fisheries in the world right now, because of all the safeguards that are in place from the vessel monitoring by satellite to the dockside enforcement,” Krebs said.

As for the World Food Championships this year, Krebs said he chose to participate in order to show off the success story of the red snapper program and allow the world to taste a truly delicious Gulf fish.

“I was invited by the organizers and I was interested in showcasing red snapper because it is truly a success story of sustainability and stewardship,” he said. “It’s a limited resource and we had to scale back our operations to fit a model so we can have fresh fish year round we spread out the harvest.”

From the Chef’s perspective, Shirah said the red snapper showcase was a welcomed challenge that quickly grew into an even greater opportunity to showcase Gulf cuisine.

“I was asked to be the official Executive Chef for all the V.I.F.’s (Very Important Foodies), the big wig sponsors, executives and competitors from around the nation and around the world,” Shirah said. “I prepared for them during the all-day week-long event.

During the course of the week, Shirah introduced chef’s of the world to red snapper prepared in many creative ways.

“I did red snapper burgers, red snapper dip, the black and blue snapper which was blackened snapper with bleu cheese, bacon and garlic,” Shirah said listing off just some of his menu items. “Overall I was surprised by the number of people who have never had fresh Gulf seafood.”

When asked what he thought about representing Destin’s cuisine, Shirah said he felt fortunate.

“I was there representing us,” he said. “We were there to share our culture with them and let them know what real good food tastes like.”