October 29, 2014
Great chefs have many tools in their kitchen, but Chris Sherrill’s greatest cooking resource may simply be the art of surprise. A trait he’ll be incorporating into his Oyster Cook-Off recipes. “We’re casual dining with no tablecloths for people in flip-flops,” says the head-chef for the Flora-Bama Yacht Club in Perdido Key. “When people think Flora-Bama they drop their expectations and then we blow their minds.”
At the Yacht Club sesame-wasabi pea crusted yellowfin tuna and lobster corn dogs are served alongside beach favorites like grilled shrimp and freshly dressed hamburgers but Sherrill is happiest when he’s creating something unique to his stretch of the beach.
“We work a lot with local foods,” he said. “I’m in the truck now picking up stuff for tonight’s special, Alabama gold shrimp with baked-in white cheddar ravioli.”
It’s easy to see how many people who drop in to this sandy spot (more easily gotten to by boat than by car) come simply for a beer and end up staying for a meal. “We serve everyone from bikers to lawyers,” said Sherrill. “I don’t think great food has a type.”
For the Oyster Cook-Off, Sherrill and his team are using their creativity to defy expectations yet again. “I don’t want to spoil the surprise but I’ll just say we are concentrating on recreating the Oysters Rockefeller using liquid nitrogen and a recipe that dates back to the 1800s,” he said. “This was a favorite dessert of Thomas Jefferson’s.”
A classic American dish, Oysters Rockefeller are some version of the basic recipe of oysters on the half shell covered in spinach, chives or other herbs and butter then baked or broiled to finish. The category is one of the Big Three at the Cook-Off along with Raw and Cajun.
Sherrill loves the communal spirit of the Cook-Off and advises that anyone can prepare a great meal worth sharing with the right attitude regardless of the ingredients.
“Don’t be scared to experiment. There’s really nothing that can’t be fixed except for burning,” he said. “You can always save a dish with a little creativity but the memories you make sharing food – that’s always the best part.”
Sherrill is competing in the 7th Annual Oyster Cook-Off, Saturday, November 8. Stop by the Flora-Bama Yacht Club tent during the Cook-Off to sample his unique oyster creations. Admission is free and the oysters and beer will be plentiful!