Sampling Shrimp for a Good Cause

By on November 7, 2019

10th Annual Shrimp Cookoff Benefits OBX Center for Dolphin Research

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There’s everything right and nothing wrong about an event that asks you to eat shrimp for a good cause. That pretty much sums up the 10th Annual Shrimp Cookoff this past Sunday, Nov. 3, at Ocean Boulevard in Kitty Hawk.

The shrimp…it was delicious. The cause, the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research (OBCDR) got a much-needed financial booster shot to keep doing their studies of Outer Banks dolphins.

Founded in 2008 the OBCDR has been studying the Outer Banks dolphin population, focusing on Roanoke Sound. Using photos of dolphin fins, more than 800 dolphin have been identified.

It’s important work. The dolphin that live in Roanoke Sound are the same species as the dolphin that swim in the Atlantic, but they have some distinctive characteristics. They tend to be smaller and lighter in color than their ocean-dwelling cousins.

They are also migratory, with the Outer Banks population arriving in spring and staying until fall when they head south to warmer waters.

There is a lot of research that the OBCDR is doing, including examining how male dolphin work together, dolphin counts and working with other research centers to document the migratory patterns of the bottlenose dolphin that prefer sounds and estuaries to the open sea.

For Jessica Taylor, the Executive Director of OBCDR, the success of the Shrimp Cookoff was a relief.

“We have some grants we get. Especially from the (Outer Banks) Community Foundation and North Carolina Community Foundation, but this is our biggest fundraiser for the year,” she said.

As important as the work the OBCDR is doing, most people were there for the shrimp. And they were not disappointed.

With 10 chefs on hand, each one trying to outdo the others, the range of flavors and presentations was incredible.

We are going to award our Hidden Outer Banks Most Innovative Shrimp Presentation (also known as the HOBMISP) to Jeff and Jennifer Schwartzenberg of Outer Banks Frozen Yogurt. They didn’t win any official awards, but anyone who would pair cold coconut shrimp with coconut yogurt has to be recognized for creativity. Cool and refreshing, it was quite nice after sampling nine other dishes.

The key to the Shrimp Cookoff is to pace yourself. The portion sizes range from almost dinner proportions to light appetizers. No matter what, though, there are still 10 samples to try…and a few return tastes just to be sure.

The Judge’s Award and People’s Choice were the same, going to Ocean Boulevard’s Chef Jamie Spence’s California Style Shrimp Wonton. It would be very difficult to argue with that decision. It had a wonderful combination of textures and flavors that seemed to make it truly stand out.

The chefs seemed to like the Chile Lime Shrimp Cake on a Steamed Bun from Sandtrap Tavern. There’s no argument from us on that decision. There was just a hint of heat from the sriracha tartar sauce, the freshly steamed bun held it all together and the lime shrimp cake featured the shrimp with hint of lime.

Two hundred tickets were the limit for the day and every one was sold. Taylor mentioned that online sales of tickets were a bit slow this year, but the day certainly made up for it.

We don’t have a date yet for the 11th Annual Shrimp Cookoff, but all things considered, it will be back.

The Winners

Judges Choice:

  • 1st: Ocean Boulevard
  • 2nd: AQUA Restaurant
  • 3rd: Shipwrecks Taphouse & Grill

People’s Choice

  • 1st: Ocean Boulevard

Chef’s Choice 

  • 1st: Sandtrap Tavern
  • 2nd: Sooey’s BBQ & Rib Shack
  • 3rd: Red Drum Tap House


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