Crews wins top chef honor with fun gumbo dish
by Kevin Pearson
Jun 04, 2013 | 2507 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
David Crews prepares his deconstructed gumbo for judging at the Great Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off on Friday, where he came in first place.
David Crews prepares his deconstructed gumbo for judging at the Great Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off on Friday, where he came in first place.
Chef David Crews of Cleveland came in first place at the fourth annual Great Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off on Friday in Biloxi.

This win will give him the honor of representing the state in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off later this year.

Crews, who is a private chef and has been the chef instructor at Mississippi Delta Community College for the past six years, participated in this four-hour competition along with 11 other competitors.

Each chef was given one hour to cook a seafood dish of their choosing to be judged and photographed.

After losing his first two years at the Great Mississippi Cook-Off, Crews decided to return to his roots and cook something simple that would still express himself.

To accomplish this, he made a deconstructed gumbo, where all the components of a gumbo are taken apart and then put back together.

Crews’ creation was a vegetable gumbo base in which he then folded lump crabmeat.

Atop the gumbo, he placed a spoon full of rice and added a whole, fried soft-shell crab, sautéed shrimp, and okra, which had been flash fried, dehydrated, and crumbled for a crunchy element.

“I think that’s why I did so good this year, was because of the fact that I just went back to my roots — what I like to cook. It makes it fun,” said Crews.

Crews habitually cooks alone but to assist with the cooking at the Great Mississippi Seafood Cook-Off, he brought his good friend T.A. Jennings as sous chef.

Jennings is the operations manager for DEH Trucking and Crews thought having a partner kept the competition fun.

In the competition, Jennings job was to fry the soft-shell crab, while Crews prepared the rest of the meal.

Another way that Crews tried to keep a light hearted attitude for the competition was by playing 18 holes of golf and having lunch with Jennings and a few others before the competition began that afternoon.

“We did it out of fun. Food needs to be about having fun and camaraderie,” said Crews.

Crews has a self described creative outlook on food and loves to keep his roots by cooking Delta food.

All of his dishes included some form of local ingredients, whether it is corn, rice, or other local ingredients.

“My food doesn’t tickle your pallet, it punches you in the face,” Crews said.

Crews has no doubt that at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off, which will be held in New Orleans on Aug. 3, he will represent Mississippi by making a Delta dish that is a throwback to his grandmother’s cooking but “brought to a different level.”