Chris Motto is back in the saddle this month to compete in another cooking competition. Tonight, June 18, the Mansurs on the Boulevard’s executive chef will be representing Baton Rouge at the 12th annual Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off at the Cajundome Convention Center in Lafayette.
Motto reached celebrity chef status thanks to his celebrated turn on FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen earlier this year, where the recognized favorite bowed out of the competition in the second-to-last episode—passing on a chance to join host Gordon Ramsay’s Las Vegas restaurant, saying his place was back home. “I want to raise the culinary standard in Baton Rouge. … I’m not ready to give up on that,” Motto said on the show before his goodbye.
Now, Motto will represent Baton Rouge again, competing against 13 other chefs from across the state in hopes of being crowned King or Queen of Louisiana Seafood. The winner of the competition will represent Louisiana and battle chefs from around the nation in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans on August 3.
225 sat down with Motto to talk life since Hell’s Kitchen and his plans for tonight’s cook-off.
How has life changed since Hell’s Kitchen?
The restaurant’s been booming. I’ve had customers come here from all over the country. I haven’t had a whole lot of free time lately.
What made you decide to leave the show?
It kind of felt like my job wasn’t finished here. I put all of these years into this restaurant and this town. When people find success and they move on and leave everything else behind, then how does that place grow?
I gained so much respect for Gordon Ramsay while I was up there, I felt like it would’ve been disrespectful (say I had won) to turn that down. I just wanted to do what was right for me. I am still confident with my decision that I did the right thing.
So what are you planning to cook at the Louisiana Seafood Cook-Off this evening?
I’m calling it “Seafood Booyah.” Growing up in South Louisiana, I ate a lot of seafood. And also a lot of rice and gravy from staying in Cajun Country. So I wanted to combine those elements. I’m doing a skin-on red snapper over LSU purple rice pilaf and a Creole shrimp butter. Then I’m going to infuse butter with blue crabs and turn that into a hollandaise sauce and add a little bit of andouille oil to finish.
How do you see your dish standing out from the 13 others?
With the degree of difficulty. I feel like I’m going to have more components than most. I’m doing everything from scratch there. You can bring flavored oils and what not, but I’m going to make mine on the spot. Just showing off some of the skills that I’ve learned throughout the years like knife work and trying to execute everything to perfection.
Who are some of your culinary idols?
Brian Landry [the New Orleans chef whose hospitality group manages the Pontchartrain Hotel’s restaurants] and [Mansurs partner and former chef] Charles Taucer would be very high on the list. I’ve learned so much from both of those guys. I’ve never been one to really follow celebrity chefs, but John Folse is also probably up there.
Who’s one person in the food industry you’d want to grab lunch with?
Gordon Ramsay. Just to kind of show him where this whole journey has brought me since working with him. I think he’s awesome. I respect how passionate he is about his career.