John Mirabella, chef and owner of Castaways, is one of seven chefs who have been invited to participate in the Celebrity Chef Lionfish Challenge at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orleans next week. The gig’s tagline — “Malicious Yet Delicious” ties into the conference’s emphasis on advancing solutions to seafood sustainability by integrating science, policy and market forces. Chefs will be traveling from Charleston, South Carolina, Washington D.C. and even Savannah, Georgia to participate in the tasting event for about 150 guests at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans.

Plus, it’s during Mardi Gras!

“How cool is that?” asked Mirabella, laughing.

Each chef will create a signature lionfish dish to showcase and serve to the guests. The idea is to popularize the consumption of lionfish in an effort to help control the fish’s population because it is an invasive species and very detrimental to the ocean and coral reefs. Mirabella will be accompanied by Amanda Couturier and they will be preparing the invasive, yet tasty, lionfish ala “Wreckdiver” — lemon butter, white wine, tomato, fresh basil and capers.

Mirabella said he has no idea how he came to the attention of the festival organizers, but is happy to participate and educate the public about a subject near and dear to his heart.

“I think the fact that I catch and cook lionfish served in my restaurant is a very appealing concept,” he said. “I don’t catch all of them myself, of course. I have the help of local divers and friends including Adolphus Busch IV, Rachel Bowman, Chase Grimes and Jonathan Schrier.”

The Challenge is sponsored by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (Daniel J. Basta, director), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation (Jason Patlis, president/CEO) and SeaWeb Summit (Dawn Martin, president).

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