April 01, 2017
By Debra Davis
Southerners love good food, and near the top of the favorites list is delicious, U.S. farm-raised catfish. Alabama catfish farmers want to know who’s the best when it comes to preparing their favorite fish.
The Alabama Catfish Producers, a division of the Alabama Farmers Federation, is sponsoring the annual Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant Challenge. Catfish lovers are asked to nominate their favorite restaurant through the Alabama Farmers Federation Facebook page or at AlabamaCatfish.org. Nominations end June 12.
“Our farmers sponsor the contest to encourage consumption of the clean, healthy catfish we raise,” said Alabama Catfish Producers Chairman Sid Nelson of Epes. “We’re thankful for all the restaurants in Alabama that serve our home-grown product, and we appreciate their customers.”
Whether it’s blackened, baked, sautéed or deep-fried, Southerners crave catfish, and through the challenge, customers can share why their favorite restaurant is Bama’s Best.
From the nominations, four finalists will be selected for the Bama’s Best Catfish Restaurant Challenge. A team of judges, including an Alabama catfish farmer, will visit the finalists. While there, judges will sample the nominated dish as part of the final round of competition.
The winner of Bama's Best Catfish Restaurant Challenge will be announced in August, which is National Catfish Month. But there’s more than bragging rights at stake. Each finalist will receive a plaque; the winner will receive a plaque and cash prize; and all four will be featured in Neighbors magazine. This year, Facebook users will select a "People's Choice" award from the finalists.
Jim Allen of Alabama Farmers Cooperative, who co-hosts "Simply Southern TV", was one of the judges for last year's event. He said it might be the best job he's ever had.
"I love catfish, and there are lots of good restaurants in our state that cook it well," he said. "All four of last year's finalists were excellent, and each of the restaurant owners was honored to even be considered."
Last year's winner, The Old Barn Restaurant in Goshen, is owned by Amy Chandler. She said the title made her restaurant a tourist destination, bringing in catfish lovers from throughout the South.