The culinary team at Samantha’s Tap Room will get a chance to compete against the top seafood chefs in the world this fall. Chefs Trace Munday and Marshall Smith were selected to represent Arkansas in the 2016 Great American Seafood Cook-off on August 6th in New Orleans.
This will be the 13th year of the competition, but only the first entry from an Arkansas based restaurant. For Munday and Smith it is a chance to prove that Arkansas can compete on a national stage with some of the best seafood cooks in the country.
“It is a chance for Arkansas to prove that we are not just fried everything,” Munday tells us. “It is a chance to show that we are improved and we are moving up in the culinary world as a state.”
Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin helped make the selection, each state that is accepted into the competition is allowed one chef/culinary team. Griffin says the process was difficult but eventually the team at Samantha’s stood out.
“Arkansas has some excellent chefs, which made the selection process difficult,” Griffin says in a statement. “The chefs at Samantha’s stand out because of their ability to create unique dishes with freshwater fish and seafood. I have no doubt the team will be a fierce competitor in the cook-off.”
Chris Tanner, owner of Samantha’s Tap Room, says he is excited about his team’s chance to compete, but more than that he wants to win. “We are not just going down there to cook, we want to showcase the state and we want to win,” Tanner tells us.
Munday and Smith should be excellent representation of Arkansas’ seafood ability. Munday spent several years cooking on the east coast using fresh seafood. Smith was a pioneer in bringing fresh seafood to Arkansas.
“I have been a chef for so long I had some of the first fresh fish brought into Arkansas while I was chef at the Hamilton House in Hot Springs. Back in the early 80’s seafood was just starting to be flow in and we were able to get some of the early shipments into Arkansas,” Smith says. “When I was at SO Restaurant I would get calls in the morning about what came in off the boat and I would have it the very next day to cook in the restaurant. A lot has changed in Arkansas with regards to seafood, I am lucky enough to be here through most of it.”
Each of the teams participating will produce one signature dish for a team of judges that reflects the ingredients and cooking style of their state.
Munday and Smith say they will spend the next few weeks creating and testing dishes to try to find the perfect competition dish. They are allowed to use seafood from neighboring states, so they are focusing on fresh caught fish and shrimp from Louisiana. They are also working with a number of Arkansas producer such as Tanner Farms and Fourche River Farms to make the dish full of Arkansas products.
“We want to do a traditional dish with a contemporary twist,” Smith tells us. “I think bringing people back to a time when food was not overly complicated is our goal. We want to keep it clean and simple,” Munday adds.
Both chefs have competed in numerous cooking competitions throughout their career, but both see this as an opportunity to really showcase the state.
Public tickets to watch the competition are available and will be up for sale closer to the event date.