Miami Chefs Return from NoLa Ready to Support

Five months after the Deepwater Horizon spilled more than 5 million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans economy is still hurting. Three locals toques, Michelle Bernstein, Michael Schwartz, and Peter Vauthy, recently visited re-opened waters, spent some time with fishermen and learned about what the government is doing to ensure the safety of seafood from the Gulf. Short Order asked em about thge experience.

New Times: How was your visit to NoLa and the Louisiana fisheries?

Bernstein called it "awesome."

Schwartz and Vauthy both added that it was "eye-opening."

"The best was getting to spend some time with the crabbers" Schwartz said. "We got to put ourselves in their shoes for a day. They're up against a lot, trying to make a living despite this mess.

What did you learn about the progress the region has undergone since the devastating event took place?

"It has a long way to go," said Bernstein.

"They're doing the best they can with what they have to work with," added Schwartz, noting a crawfish harvest and processing of out-of-state crab.

Is it safe? If so, what seafood is safe and what should we still be weary of?

But, said Schwartz: There are still so many unknowns, especially where the harm to the environment is concerned. I wanted the FDA to tell me something they were worried about... Something they found that was cause for concern. But they stood by their statements that they've done all sorts of testing and what they've found is safe to consume. They have a sampling protocol in place for re-opening waters... I guess it's what they're not saying that concerns me - and I told that to the FDA commissioner that briefed us.

Are you supporting the area's fisheries in your restaurants? If so, what products are you using?

All three are importing blue crabs and shrimp. It is "all from the supplier we personally visited," explained Schwartz. "That's what the trip really reinforced for us... The importance of knowing exactly where food comes from and the people producing it.

I'm sure the locals are none too happy about their current situation, but are they comforted about the aid, support and attention the they are receiving in order to stimulate their economies again?

"The folks we spoke with seem very pleased with the federal government's response to the disaster," said Schwartz. Then he added: "As for BP, not so much."

What can we do as consumers to help?

"Buy gulf seafood," said Bernstein. Vauthy added: "The key is to keep reaching out to the public to make sure people know that Gulf seafood is safe and here to stay."

For more information, log on to To purchase Louisiana seafood or make a donation, check out their website and Facebook page.

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Aniece Meinhold