Chef Aaron Burgau crowned King of Louisiana Seafood

Aaron Burgau, chef-owner of Patois, captured the King of Louisiana Seafood crown Saturday with a riff on the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival perennial favorite Crawfish Monica.

The Crescent City native beat nine other chefs from across the state vying for the seafood king title at the seventh annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-off, presented by the Louisiana Seafood Promotion & Marketing Board.

Burgau, 40, will represent the state in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, which will be held Aug. 2 during the Louisiana Restaurant Association Food Service Expo at the New Orleans Convention Center.

The four judges said they were impressed with the “focus” and the execution of his dish, Crawfish and Pappardelle Pasta With Ramp Greens Purée and Uni Butter.

“The crawfish flavor was really foremost in the dish,” said Susan Spicer, chef-owner of Bayona.

Beverly Stephen, executive editor of the national Food Arts Magazine, termed it a “composed dish, very harmonious.”

Burgau dubbed his dish “a riff on Crawfish Monica with no cream and no cheese.” Instead, he tossed crawfish tails and fresh pasta in an “uni” butter that he made by combining the sushi item uni (the Japanese name for the edible part of sea urchin) with high-fat, unsalted butter. He garnished his dish with a fried soft-shell crawfish.

The chef and his business partner, Leon Touzet, opened Patois at 6078 Laurel St. in uptown New Orleans in 2007. Burgau, a graduate of Johnson & Wales University, said he’s been working in restaurants since he was 14. He trained under renowned New Orleans chef Gerard Maras.

Two other New Orleans natives claimed the second and third spots at the cook-off, which was held in conjunction with the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience at the convention center.

Chris Montero, executive chef at Ralph Brennan’s café b in Metairie, took second place with his Gulf Wild Red Snapper dish, and Chip Flanagan, who heads the kitchen at another Ralph Brennan restaurant, Ralph’s on the Park, earned third place for his Cobia With Crawfish Tails, Sweet Pea Succotash and Crawfish Nantua Sauce.

Montero, who also oversees Ralph Brennan’s Courtyard Café in the New Orleans Museum of Art, said he was pleased with second place since “all I wanted to do was beat Chip.”

“I let him get second place,” Flanagan laughingly rejoined.

The 10 chefs in the competition had one hour to prepare and plate a pre-submitted Louisiana seafood recipe. Louisiana seafood had to be their dish’s main protein and more than one Louisiana seafood product could be used.

Also competing were Baton Rouge chefs Ryan André of Le Creolé, David Dickensauge of Bin 77 and Scott Varnedoe of Restaurant IPO; Scott McCue, of Cypress Bayou Casino Hotel in Charenton; New Orleans chefs Dave Gotter of GG’s Dine-O-Rama and Anthony Scanio of Emeril’s Delmonico; and Nick Oskoian of Nonna in Monroe.