By Laurel Newman Special to the Times (apalachtimes.com article link)
The fourth annual Crab Cake Cook-off, sponsored by the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association (CLA) and the good folk at Harry’s Bar/Marine Street Grill, once again brought seafood lovers out for a warm evening of food, music, and silent auction fun.
The annual event is a fundraiser for the Crooked River Lighthouse Park’s replacement efforts for the “Carrabella,” a 60-foot “pirate ship” playground structure. The popular play platform, a visitor magnet that children of all ages enjoyed daily, was destroyed by arson on May 11, 2015.
Lighthouse society members and volunteers held brainstorming sessions, and volunteer Kathleen Oman came up with the Crab Cake Cook off. Over the years, the event has grown, and Oman, with the help of lighthouse people and community members, has continued to make it a popular event, drawing supporters from as far away as Pensacola, Tallahassee, Bainbridge and other areas.
This year’s event featured six local chefs vying for the coveted title: Jamie Messer, Renee Boudrey, Sean O’Shea, Selena Winchester, Jon Johnson and Brian Genard. Each chef prepared 150 bite-sized crab cakes, plus a few for the judges. Each of the ticket holders received a plate of six crab cakes, each with a numbered bamboo forklet, to be used to cast votes for their favorites.
While the visitors were enjoying their treats and determining their favorites, they had the opportunity to inspect and place bids on the items, donated by local merchants and artists, offered in the silent auction. Meanwhile, CLA’s curator and event specialist Joan Matey, appropriately garbed in one of her “Fishy Fashion” ensembles, updated everyone on the progress of the new “Carrabella” project, now in its first phase of site preparation.
Once the popular votes were tallied, the winners were announced. The Judges’ Choice Award went to Johnson, a local wildlife photographer, and the People’s Choice to O’Shea, of the Marine Street Grill.
The evening was further enhanced by the incredible vocals and guitar music from Cat Braaten, a gifted musician who kept the crowd entertained with her spirited tunes.
Once again, the cook-off was declared a success, and the CLA thanks all those who made it so, from the hard-working volunteers to the generous supporters.
Carrabelle Lighthouse Association’s Joan Matey, sporting a crab trap hat, with Jon Johnson, winner of the Judges’ Choice award for his excellent crab cakes at the cookoff. [ photo by Jim Smith | Harry’s Bar ]