Chef Mandy Dixon to Compete in ‘Great American Seafood Cook-Off’ in New Orleans

Alaska Chef, Mandy Dixon will represent Alaska in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans next month. Image-LSP&MB

Alaska Chef, Mandy Dixon will represent Alaska in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans next month. Image-LSP&MB

The Lt Governor of the state of Louisiana and the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board announced that they are hosting the 11th Annual Great American Seafood Cook-Off on August 2nd in New Orleans.

At the Cook-Off, eighteen chefs from around the country will compete for the highly coveted crown honoring the best seafood chef in the nation.

“Seafood plays such a huge part in our culinary history and culture, and seafood dishes created in Louisiana can be found worldwide,” Lt. Governor Dardenne said.  “We’re excited to welcome such prestigious chefs who will demonstrate their creativity using their states’ native seafood.”

Many states hold their own cook-offs in spring and early summer to qualify chefs to compete in New Orleans. Participating chefs in this year’s event will represent Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

La Baleine Cafe on the Homer Spit is owned and operated by Mandy Dixon. Image-Trip Advisor

La Baleine Cafe on the Homer Spit is owned and operated by Mandy Dixon. Image-Trip Advisor

Alaska’s entry in the competition, Mandy Dixon, hails from the seaside port of Homer on the southern Kenai Peninsula, where she owns and chefs at the La Baleine Cafe. La Baleine is known on the peninsula for its Alaska fare served to fishermen, tourists as well as discerning locals with a penchant for great Alaskan seafood.

Dixon grew up in the wilds of Alaska first at the Riversong Lodge along the Yentna River, then at the Winterlake Lodge along the Iditarod Trail  near the western edge of the Alaska Range where her family owned and operated the remote accommodations. At the lodges, Dixon was taught through remote correspondence before leaving to attend culinary school in 2002. She trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena before setting out and working at various restaurants for the next four years.

After those four years, Dixon would re-enter school again, this time enrolling in an intensive pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, California. While attending school, Dixon worked as a pastry chef at the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in Yountville, California. She would continue to work there until ultimately returning to the family business in Alaska in 2010.

In 2009, Dixon was the featured chef at the James Beard House in New York.

Chef Mandy Dixon also chefs at two family owned lodges, one of which offers cooking classes, such as this one aboard a vintage WWII troop carrier in Tutka Bay. Image-Tutka Bay Lodge.

Chef Mandy Dixon also chefs at two family owned lodges, one of which offers cooking classes, such as this one aboard a vintage WWII troop carrier in Tutka Bay. Image-Tutka Bay Lodge.

Back in Alaska, Dixon has worked as a food stylist for the second edition of the “Winterlake Lodge Cookbook,” and is the co-author of the “The Tutka Bay Lodge Cookbook,” which is due out later this year.

In 2013, Dixon competed in, and tied for second place in the Great Alaskan Seafood Cook-Off that took place in Anchorage.

While Dixon oversees and manages the La Baleine Cafe in Homer, she also chefs at the Winterlake Lodge and the Tutka Bay Lodge where she also frequently instructs cooking classes aboard the beached, two-story “Widgeon II,” a World War II troop carrier-turned crabbing boat-turned cooking school.

“It’s a thrill to bring Alaska seafood to Louisiana, the home of this national cook-off, and compete against a group of America’s most talented chefs,” chef Dixon said.

The Great American Seafood Cook-Off, which is dedicated to promoting sustainable and domestic fisheries, first took place in the summer of 2004 when New Orleans chef John Besh took the title. The 2013 Cook-Off Crown went to chef David Crews from Mississippi. Chef Crews prepared a Southern Nicoise Salad featuring lump crab meat and seared tuna.

The competition takes place at 11:30 am on Saturday, August 2nd in New Orleans.