The 12th Annual Hangout Oyster Cookoff Craft Spirits & Beer Weekend has not only grown in name over the last 12 years but also in size. The first cook-off started with 10 tents in The Hangout courtyard and about 500 attendees. It has since grown and expanded to over 7,000 bivalve eating, celebrity chef loving, music listening attendees in 2019 who consumed over 100,000 oysters.
Restaurant and amateur teams competed for prize money and bragging rights. Hometown teams did well as Wolf Bay Lodge was the overall Oyster Cookoff winner and Island Granite was the overall amateur winner. Both teams took home a check for $1,000 and a trophy.
Among all the competitors there was only one team of high school students slinging oysters. Gulf Shores High School Culinary had a team of four student, Marleigh Green, Carmen Morales, Rhaqueime Ramos and Christian Welsch, and two teachers, chef Kristen Madsen and Jessica Sampley. The team arrived at 7:30 a.m. to set up and worked till 5 p.m. shucking and serving over 1,000 raw and Cajun oysters to the hungry masses.
“This team of kids did an amazing job of working together and are excited to compete again soon, despite results that were not in our favor,” Sampley said.
Throughout the festival complex four stages were constantly occupied with music and celebrity chef demos. The Publix tent had hands on demos where you could sit in the shade and create a simple and delicious dish with the chef’s instructions.
The Green Egg Tent was full all day long as chefs you have seen on Food Network cooked oyster-based recipes using the Green Egg. The audience had the chance to sample the dishes and meet the chefs.
On the main stage Aaron Sanchez and Iron chef Michael Symon cooked in front of large crowds. Sanchez went onstage at noon and Symon closed out the day at 5 p.m. Symon’s demo ended with the crowd cheering for him to toss them some sausage.
“My mom would be so mad if she saw me throwing food,” Symon laughed as he tossed kielbasa to the crowd.
Music rang out all day long with performers like Caroline Jones and Boy Named Banjo, but the final act was worth the wait. At 6:30 p.m. the legendary Jimmy Hall and The Muscle Shoals All-Stars closed out the night with classics everyone has heard like “Mustang Sally.”