Navy Culinary Specialists Compete in Seafood Cookoff at Navy Week NOLA

Photo By Jay Cope | 20220420-N-WW980-0005 NEW ORLEANS (Apr. 20, 2022) Rear Adm. John Menoni, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 2 and Command Master Chief Todd Mangin, ESG2 stand on either side of Culinary Specialist First Class Emily Gibson, also from ESG2 and Chef Ryan Cashio from Cajun House Restaurant following their second place finish in the Louisiana Seafood Cookoff held during NOLA Navy Week. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase the awareness of the Navy’s role and purpose in our national defense. (U.S. Navy Photo by LCDR Paul Newell/ RELEASED)



Story by Jay Cope 

Commander, Navy Region Southeast 

NEW ORLEANS— Eight culinary specialists from the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, French Navy and the Marine Corps teamed up with New Orleans chefs to decide who could create the dish that best exemplified Louisiana seafood during Navy Week New Orleans, April 20.

The Louisiana Seafood Cookoff is a staple of Navy Week NOLA, and one of the premier events during the week. Service members from Expeditionary Strike Group 2, USS Lassen (DDG 82), USS Farragut (DDG 99), the French ship La Combattante, USCGC Daniel Tarr, US Coast Guard District 8, Naval Talent Acquisition Group New Orleans and Marine Forces Reserve accepted the culinary challenge.

The culinary specialists were joined by chefs from restaurants such as Brennan’s, Mawi NOLA, Tour d’Eiffel, Cajun House and more.

The dishes were judged by a panel consisting of top Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard leadership including Expeditionary Strike Group 2 Commander, Rear Adm. John Meloni, Commanding General 4th Logistics Marines Brig. Gen. William Souza, Navy Region Southeast Chief of Staff Capt. Gregory Smith, and Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans Capt. Kelly Denning. The military judges were joined by Justin Boone the Mayor’s Executive Office Director, City of New Orleans; Chef Sammantha Carrol, Executive Director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board as well as a Food Network personality; and Susan Ford, Publisher of “Louisiana Kitchen & Culture.”

Judges graded the dishes on Presentation, Creativity, and Taste.

While the event was more about camaraderie and friendly rivalries, the competition was serious. Each team only had 30 minutes to prepare a creative Cajun dish using at least one of the three types of fish provided and other seafood pairings. They had to prepare eight portions – one for display and one for each of the judges.

When time expired, the finished dishes made their way to the judges’ table for the taste test.

“Every dish was thoughtfully crafted and enjoyed. Picking among the dishes was incredibly difficult, but it was a great day and something I would love to do again,” said Rear Adm. John Menoni, Commander Expeditionary Strike Group 2.

The Navy took a clean sweep of the prizes with USS Farragut Culinary Specialist (CS) Third Class Perez Santos and Chef Ryan Hacker from Brennans Restaurant taking top honors. CS1 Emily Gibson from ESG2 and Chef Ryan Cashio of Cajun House & Catering earned the second place award. CS2 Lemuel Corpuz, and Chef Phillipe Parola of Silverfin Group Inc. won third prize.

The winning dishes were: marinated ahi tuna with oyester “Tonnato”, capers and onions; pan seared crabmeat stuffed Black Drum served on a bed of purple potatoes and andouille sausage topped with crawfish cream sauce; and Invasive Silver Carp with crawfish.

As Navy Week New Orleans continues, U. S. Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen will join their French counterparts in experiencing the vibrant culture and cuisine of their host city.

Navy Week New Orleans provides an opportunity for the citizens of New Orleans and visitors to meet hundreds of Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, as well as see, firsthand, the latest capabilities of today’s sea services.

Navy Week New Orleans will run to April 22.

For up-to-date information on ship locations and tour schedules, visit the official Navy Week New Orleans website at and “Like”

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