GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 21, 2013

It's 'throwdown' time at Farmers Market

By Sean Horgan
Staff Writer

---- — There’s a big Cape Ann Seafood Throwdown Thursday at the Cape Ann Farmers’ Market at Stage Fort Park.

So, who do you pick?

Are you going with chef Glen Manfra from Gloucester’s Willow Rest?

Or are you going with chef Mercedes Laboa of Prides Osteria in Beverly?

Either way, the odds are you’re going to see something delectable produced right before your very eyes at the throwdown, scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. and running until 6 p.m.

This is the fifth year of the summer seafood throwdowns in Gloucester, and they have been so successful that they have served as a template for similar seafood cooking competitions in Nova Scotia, Portsmouth, N.H., coastal North Carolina and other locales.

In case you haven’t had the chance to attend, here’s how it works, courtesy of Niaz Dorry, the coordinating director of Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, which sponsors the cooking competition along with the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association:

“The chefs come and bring three of their favorite ingredients,” Dorry said. “They then get $25 each and 15 minutes to shop the Farmers’ Market for everything else they’re going to cook with.”

The chefs each will have a sous chef. Manfra will cook with Willow Rest colleague Melissa Donati, while Laboa will be teamed with North Shore cardiologist David Rabin.

And what locally caught seafood, donated by Cape Ann Fresh Catch, will be the centerpiece of this culinary feast?

That, said Dorry, is a secret that won’t be unveiled until things get underway Thursday night.

“It will likely be the whole animal, depending on the species,” she said. “It could be a whole fin-fish, it could be a lobster or whatever is available locally.”

The contest purposely focuses on species that are less familar to the average consumer — a venture becoming increasingly significant as fishermen find themselves in a growing bind seekng more traditional seafood, and dealing with a less-familar catch that gets thrown overboard because it won’t bring a fair market price.

“People need to understand is that when fishermen put out their gear out to fish, it doesn’t just magically happen, that only one species gets caught,” Dorry said. “They don’t bring (those other species) in because they don’t get paid a fair price for it and the public doesn’t have a taste for it.”

The contest will be judged by Kat Brown, Antonio Bigatello and a mystery judge chosen from the audience. Peter Van Ness will serve as the master of ceremonies, as he has for similar events in the past here and in Boston, while Steve Parkes of Maritime Gloucester will demonstrate how to filet a fish and Jen Perry from The Open Door will speak to the nutritional value of seafood.

The throwdown will be followed by a community picnic. Folks can bring their own food — or buy something at the Farmers Market, which runs from 3 to 6:30 p.m. every Thursday at Stage Fort through early October.

Sean Horgan may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3464, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT