NEW ORLEANS — A team of Saluda County 4-H’ers went down to the bayou and brought home top honors at this year’s Great American Seafood Cook-Off: 4-H Edition against the largest field in the competition’s history.

Winning team with check

First-place winners at the 2018 Great American Seafood Cook-Off: 4-H Edition at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center on Aug. 5 were from Saluda County in South Carolina. Pictured are Patrick Tuck, executive director of the Louisiana 4-H Foundation, Ginger Wertz, Allie Trotter, Laken Fulmer and Lindsey Scott. Also pictured are LSU AgCenter agents Quincy Vidrine and Robin Landry.
Image Credit: Johnny Morgan/ LSU AgCenter

The team of Laken Fulmer, Lindsey Scott, Allie Trotter and Ginger Wertz pulled away from the pack with its blue crab cakes. The dish featured two crab cakes served on a bed of South Carolina stone-ground grits, accompanied by a twist on a Southern succotash and fresh tomato coulis.

“It feels amazing. We have put so much work into our recipe and we’ve practiced all summer,” Scott said. “We’ve worked with chefs to help us and we then each put our own spin on it.”

The Saluda County Healthy Lifestyles team has been together since 2016 and has helped teach summer cooking programs with Saluda County 4-H sponsored by Walmart.

The victory was a countywide effort. The team thanked chef Brandon Velie of Juniper in Ridge Spring for assisting with recipe selection and cooking preparation and Titan Farms and Wendell Bedenbaugh for donating produce for team practices and the national competition.

The recipe was a combination of Velie’s personal recipes and the team’s research.

“Our goal was to represent South Carolina by bringing a recipe that included local produce that could be found within 20 miles of our homes and blue crab meat that could be harvested from our South Carolina coast,” said Saluda County Youth 4-H Agent Darcy Schueler, who coached the team along with Ronette Trotter and Connie Lake. “It was a very delightful and tasty dish.”

The team received a $1,000 scholarship for winning from the Louisiana 4-H Foundation for its first-place finish.

Winning dish

The winning dish at the 2018 Great American Seafood Cook-Off: 4-H Edition at the New Orleans Morial Convention Center — South Carolina blue crab cakes — was prepared by Ginger Wertz, Allie Trotter, Laken Fulmer and Lindsey Scott, all from Saluda County, South Carolina.
Image Credit: Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

“We are very proud of these youth,” said Pam Ardern, South Carolina state 4-H program leader. “This is a very competitive competition. I know this team worked extremely hard to achieve their goal.”

The competition was steep with teams of 4-H’ers from Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and two teams from Texas at the Morial Convention Center on Aug. 5.

The Jim Wells County, Texas, team placed second with its corn salsa and grilled shrimp, while the third-place team from Tom Green County, Texas, served sweet corn tamale cakes.

The Mississippi team prepared a redfish milanese. Georgia prepared a coastal Cajun chowder. The Tennessee team prepared Tennessee-style shrimp and grits and Louisiana prepared Cajun blackened shrimp tacos.

LSU AgCenter agent Quincy Vidrine, who coordinated the event, said this was the largest group of competitors in the event’s eight-year history with a record seven teams.

Vidrine said the cookoff aims to promote domestic seafood in the state.

“It is also a way to get people to cook seafood in a more healthful way,” she said. “The criteria require that no dish can be over 750 calories per serving, so that eliminates deep-fat frying and promotes healthier cooking methods.”

Team prepares dish

The Saluda County Healthy Lifestyles team prepares its winning dish at this year’s Great American Seafood Cook-Off: 4-H Edition.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Patrick Tuck, executive director of the Louisiana 4-H Foundation, said the event is also a way for young people from different places to get to know each other.

“Anytime we can cross borders with competition is a good thing, and what better place to do a seafood cookoff than Louisiana?” he said.

LSU AgCenter 4-H program leader Toby Lepley said the competition is a great opportunity for young people to be innovative and creative.

“This shows what they’ve learned in the 4-H program and in the food and nutrition project, and they can develop those skills to an even higher level,” he said.

The youth development arm of Clemson Cooperative Extension, the South Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program uses a learn-by-doing approach, the involvement of caring adults and the knowledge and resources of Clemson University and the land-grant university system to empower youth to become healthy, productive and contributing members of society.

Saluda County Healthy Lifestyles team’s recipes for South Carolina Blue Crab Cakes, Southern Succotash and Creamy Grits with Tomato Coulis


5 cups milk
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 ¼ cup coarsely ground grits
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat milk and butter. Add grits, stir, lower temperature and cover. Stir frequently. When grits begin to thicken, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until grits are thickened and tender, approximately 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Set aside, keep warm, and continue stirring.  Serve grits on warm plate.

Nutrition Information:  Serving Size – 6 ounces, cooked; 153 Calories; 8g Fat; 559mg Sodium;
Yield: 6 servings  

Source:  Chef Brandon Velie, Juniper


Crab Cakes

¼ cup red onion, diced
2 pounds of lump blue crab meat
¼ cup bell pepper, finely diced
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon jalapeno, finely diced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Low Country low-sodium seasoning mix
1 teaspoon dry ground mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 ½ cup panko crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Dice onion and bell pepper.  Mince garlic.  Finely dice jalapeno pepper with seeds removed.

Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add teaspoon of butter and teaspoon of olive oil to pan.  Add onion and peppers. Cook 2 minutes, gently stirring until vegetables are softened, approximately 4-6 minutes.  Add low country low sodium seasoning. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Combine Blue Crab lump crab meat, panko bread crumbs, sautéed vegetables, egg, mayonnaise, dry ground mustard, salt, pepper, and Low Country low-sodium seasoning. Gently fold ingredients together. Measure into ¼ cup portions and mold into cakes.

Heat non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add crab cakes to hot pan and cook 2 minutes. Flip crab cakes and cook additional 2 minutes, searing both sides. Transfer crab cakes to oven and cook for approximately 8 minutes until done.

Nutrition Information:  Serving Size- 2 crab cakes (~3 ounces); 200 Calories; 11g Fat; 558mg Sodium;
Yield: 6 servings  

Source:  Chef Brandon Velie, Juniper

Southern Succotash

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 cup zucchini, diced
½ cup red onion, finely diced
1 cup summer squash, diced
½ cup red and orange bell peppers, diced
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
½ cup pre-cooked pink-eye peas
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup fresh sweet corn, off the cob
¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add butter, olive oil, onions, and bell peppers. Sauté onions and bell peppers until softened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Stir frequently. Add corn and pre-cooked pink-eye peas; cook until thoroughly heated, approximately 2 minutes. Add squash and cook until tender. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Remove from heat.

Nutrition Information:  Serving Size- ¾ cup; 70 Calories; 4g Fat; 99mg Sodium;
Yield: 6 servings  

Source: Chef Brandon Velie, Juniper