June 8, 2016; Biloxi, Mississippi:
By Capt. Dave Lear
The 2016 Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic kicked off with a spicy flair Tuesday evening as teams and sponsors enjoyed boiled cajun crawdads, fried fish and shrimp cooked by Louisiana Fish Fry Products and washed down by cold Miller Lite and Coors Lite beers. It didn’t take long for the heaping mounds of steaming seafood to disappear amid the pre-tournament banter and bustle. On Wednesday night it’s the Golden Nugget’s chefs turn to dazzle as they serve up the always delicious kick-off banquet on the H2o pool deck following the captains meeting.
But what happens, food-wise, once the boats power away from the docks late Thursday morning? It’s not like they can pull over to the nearest Piggly Wiggly supermarket or go through the Raising Cane drive-through 100-plus miles offshore. Are all these contestants forced to eat snack crackers, Vienna sausage and stale donuts for the next three days? Not hardly. This is a world-class fishing tournament, after all.
“We’ve got filets, BBQ, shrimp, Popeye’s chicken, you name it we’ve got it stockpiled in the refrigerator,” says Capt. Larry McMillen, skipper of Iona Louise. “A lot of our breakfast stuff is pre-cooked. We grill steaks offshore, but we also have a designated cook on board this time. He’s just a boat wench, somebody who doesn’t know how to fish,” he added with a chuckle.
Capt. Robbie Doggett and his crew aboard Relentless Pursuit won’t be starving offshore, either. Doggett’s menus include crawfish étouffée, stuffed chicken, beef stroganoff, casseroles and Kobe beef filets at $370 a pound. The breakfast buffet includes eggs, sausage, bacon, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls and fruit. All the meals are prepared on board.
“The boss likes to drive the boat when we’re fishing, so I’m the duty chef,” Doggett explains. “He eats the same stuff wherever he goes, so it’s the same on board too. This is the one boat I gain weight on and it has absolutely nothing to do with all the beer we drink.”
So as you sit down to your own evening meal the next couple nights, don’t feel sorry for the Classic contestants. They may not run across the winning marlin or tuna. But they sure aren’t going hungry either. If the galley tables are swaying just a bit, it’s probably due to the load of moveable feasts.