by Ian McNulty
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) had a busy weekend. The trade group hosted its annual Louisiana Foodservice EXPO, an industry event that includes its Great American Seafood Cookoff competition, and also doled out a clutch of awards and honors to restaurant business heavies.
Tory McPhail, (pictured at left) executive chef at Commander's Palace, won the seafood cookoff at the convention center on Saturday, besting a slate of chefs from around the country who had to produce dishes using seafood from their native states. McPhail's dish, Creole seafood mixed grill with drum, shrimp and crabmeat, earned him the LRA's title of "King of Seafood."
During the group's annual awards banquet the following day, Leah Chase of the Creole culinary landmark Dooky Chase Restaurant was named Restaurateur of the Year, the LRA's top honor.
A past recipient of the same award, Archie Casbarian, owner of Arnaud's Restaurant, was posthumously inducted into the LRA's hall of fame. Casbarian and his wife Jane bought Arnaud's in 1978 and began a thorough restoration of the historic French Creole restaurant. He died in January at age 72.
Another accolade went to Sean Malone, chief operating officer of Serranos Salsa Company, who received the LRA's leadership award for his work on the board of the association's New Orleans-area chapter.
U.S. Sen. David Vitter also received an honor Sunday, snagging the LRA's Distinguished Service Award. The LRA described Vitter as "a small business champion who supports pro-growth policies in the U.S. Senate, including a permanent extension of restaurant depreciation."