Rick Tramonto has seen the devastation from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill firsthand. His job now, he says, is to convince other chefs to see it for themselves.
Tramonto was one of a contingent of well-known chefs who traveled to the Grand Isle area Sunday to throw their support to the state's fishing and shrimping industry and ease consumer uncertainty about the safety of Gulf seafood. The chefs held a press conference Monday to launch the Friends of the Fishermen Foundation with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board.
"It's about bringing awareness to the situation immediately, and opening a discussion of what does this really look like, to get the chefs to see it up close and personal," Tramonto said today, en route to yet another (unrelated) event in Minneapolis. "Yes, families are devastated, yes, areas are devastated. But yes, there is still great, live fish coming out of the Gulf."
The catalyst for the event was Tramonto's friend, Louisiana chef John Folse, who had just come back from promoting Gulf seafood in Helsinki, Finland, on behalf of the Louisiana seafood board. Folse got Tramonto on board, who then rounded up a dozen of his buddies for the weekend, including Tom Colicchio, he of Bravo's "Top Chef" series, and Rick Moonen and Susur Lee, Tramonto's fellow competitors on this season's "Top Chef Masters."
The chefs took a boat tour in Grand Isle and met with fisherman and crabbers whose livelihood has been threatened by the spill. And they ate plenty of oysters, crab, shrimp and redfish, too.
This was Tramonto's third such trip to the region. The chef, who announced this month he is leaving Tru to open a new project, said it's not his last.
As for the chatter that New Orleans just might be the site of that next project, Tramonto said ever so gamely, "I really want to be in Napa Valley, if everybody really wants to know where I want to be."