Gulf Seafood featured at NASFeb 16th, 2011 | By Michelle Provencher | Category: news
Commissaries around country to carry and promote Gulf seafood
Customers attending the Feb. 8 commissary grand opening at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse were treated to the savory aromas wafting from Gulf Coast seafood cooking demonstrations.
The new store is the first to feature Gulf Coast seafood instead of foreign imported seafood. This movement to promote American aquaculture came from the top when Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, saw how the BP oil spill negatively affected the Gulf Coast seafood’s reputation. This was a way to get goods selling and promote the Gulf Coast brand.
George Jackson, a disabled veteran who retired from the Army, was first in line at the Commissary and said his first purchase was going to be ox tails.
Once inside, Jackson commented on the quality of the new shopping center, and began perusing the frozen seafood section, looking for small shrimp.
Above the freezer doors were signs that listed where the seafood was caught.
“[It is] so shoppers can plainly see which seafood items are domestically sourced,” said Chris Burns, Defense Commissary Agency’s director of sales. “This helps shoppers who prefer domestic seafood.”
During the event, customers were able to sample the region’s tastiest seafood treats in an atmosphere similar to a Hollywood premiere, said Chris Laborde, a spokesman for the Gulf Coast Alliance, an organization that promotes regional economic recovery, including the sale and consumption of seafood from the Gulf of Mexico.
“No one will blame them if they feel like they’re on the set of a cable television cooking channel,” he said.
“After all, they will be tasting recipes personally prepared, on the spot, by several celebrity chefs from the Gulf Coast region and by the U.S. military’s own version of celebrity chefs.”
The mini-seafood festival at the Belle Chasse base commissary kicks off a federal government initiative to sell more fresh, local seafood and more domestic frozen seafood. As the military’s grocer, DeCA was able to identify opportunities to increase its domestic seafood offerings in its stores.
Chef Tenney Flynn, of GW Fins, while busy chopping basil for a recipe, explained how the Gulf is home to plenty of fish, some of which – like tuna – is little known.
“There’s a wealth of seafood out of the Gulf that even Louisiana doesn’t know about,” said Flynn. “A good 70 percent of our seafood comes from the Gulf.”
There will be 70 commissaries around the world offering Gulf Coast seafood, and according to Mission Sustainment Officer, Buck Dodick, the base in Belle Chasse is the first to feature all local seafood.
“Now Gulf Coast fish will be featured around the globe,” said Dodick.
“If it’s a hit then it might go to other markets, as well,” added Rick Brink, DeCA East public affairs officer.
During the grand opening event, civilian and military “destination chefs” let go of some of their recipe secrets so patrons could make the most of commissary seafood. Patrons also had the opportunity to have their pictures taken with chefs. In addition to the civilian chefs, the U.S. military’s Joint Culinary Center of Excellence, Fort Lee, Va., brought in highly trained military chefs who operate the most prestigious of the military dining rooms. There was one chef each from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. The center also provided equipment and logistical support to all the chefs.
The new commissary, funded by surcharge funds, replaces a facility that was demolished nearly two years ago to accommodate new construction at nearby Naval Support Activity New Orleans, Algiers. Since March 31, 2009, the commissary has been operating out of an interim store on the Algiers base.
Features of the new store include more than 24,000 square feet of sales area; nine checkouts and four self-checkouts; full-service meat and produce departments; and a deli/bakery, which are comparable to services provided in the former commissary, but not available in the interim store. Unlike its predecessor, the new commissary features some of the latest environmental and energy efficiency innovations.
Next door, the Naval Exchange also had their grand opening.
Celebrity chef, Paul Prudhomme, was posing for photographs and autographing copies of his cookbooks for fans inside the store.
The exchange is bigger than before with expanded departments, and now features a video game exchange, juniors clothing section and a beauty salon.
“This new store has been eagerly anticipated by our patrons, who have shopped at an interim commissary for the past 21 months,” said Charlita Covington, store director. “I’m sure they’ll find the wait worth it when they get to enjoy the services and values this new store offers.”
Between the exchange and the grocer, the complex will create approximately 250 jobs for civilians.
Captain Thomas Luscher, commander of the NAS base, said up-to-date amenities like the commissary and naval exchange are important to the people living there.
“We need this benefit for our serviceman to keep our best people coming back to the community,” said Luscher.
There are currently about 750 housing units for members of the armed forces and their families on the NAS base.
Also opening in the plaza are a GNC vitamin and supplement store, and a Subway restaurant.