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South Florida chefs to represent state in Great American Seafood Cook-off

Two South Florida chefs are headed to New Orleans this week to represent the state in the 10th annual Great American Seafood Cook-off.

Jon Greening, executive chef at Deck 84 in Delray Beach, will compete Saturday against more than a dozen chefs, all preparing dishes featuring their states' native fish and ingredients. A six-judge panel will sample the distinct creations and crown the winner king or queen of American seafood.

Greening will be assisted by Jay Prisco, executive chef at Bogart's Bar & Grille in Boca Raton. Both eateries are part Rapoport's Restaurant Group.

"I'm extremely excited," said Greening, 38, a 15-year veteran of the restaurant industry. "It's a big opportunity. I'm a bit nervous, but it's excitement nervous."

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services tapped the Boca Raton-based restaurant operator to represent Florida in the cook-off.

Jackie Moalli, the agency's senior marketing manager, said department officials felt "very comfortable" choosing Rapoport's. "We know their reputation and know their food quality is outstanding," she said.

Florida is no stranger to the Big Easy competition.

Chefs from the Sunshine State won the cook-off crown in 2006 and 2010.

In 2010, Dean James Max, then with 3030 Ocean Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, won the event with his Sebastian Inlet Clams BBLT (bacon, basil, lettuce and tomato). In 2006, the top award went to Justin Timineri, executive chef for the state Agriculture Department, and to Joshua Butler, the governor's chef.

Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, which produces the cook-off, said he's pleased Rapoport's team is bringing a taste of Florida to the competition.

"Each year we bring a new and diverse group of America's most talented chefs to New Orleans," he said.

The contest focuses on cooking using domestic and sustainable seafood. Chefs from New Mexico, Massachusetts and Kentucky are among those competing this year. They have one hour to prepare their meals.

The South Florida team's ingredients will include black grouper, Key West shrimp and Florida lobster.

What is Greening's strategy to hook the "King of American Seafood" crown?

"The same thing I do here, I'll do over there … clean, simple flavors," he said. "That's what we try to do at our restaurants on a daily basis. When you complicate things, food becomes hard to understand. … And great fish speaks for itself.", 954-356-4526, Twitter @MiriamValverde

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