● By Jessie Monsivais
By: Jessie Monsivais Photos by: Rachel Benavides
Gail Huesmann, Executive Chef at the Black Marlin Bar and Grill in Port Aransas, Texas, is inspired by her community and food. “Everything inspires me; food and people’s passion for it. I love to learn about the food that people love and replicate it for them,” she says.
Gail began working in the hospitality industry in 1984, but her culinary journey started sometime around 1969 in her great grandmother’s kitchen. Gail spent her childhood surrounded by some amazing home cooks and bakers, making delicious food that fed the body and soul. “The fact that I formalized my culinary training years later at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago never truly eclipsed the home training I’d had,” Huesmann says.
She spent several years as a Chef Instructor at the Le Cordon Bleu and Robert Morris University, both in Chicago. “To be a great instructor, one must be ‘spot on’ with every demo and every lecture. I still practice even the most basic kitchen skills on a daily basis.”
Huesmann started competing in the food sport back in 2013 at the World Food Championship during its second year of operation. “Wholly under-prepared for what I would experience, I jumped into the sandwich category with entries I still love but (now) would do quite differently. Now, when I compete, I bring the best of what I’ve learned about Texas Gulf Coast food and the heart-warming traditions of comfort food.”
Since then, Huesmann has achieved a second-place finish on 2016’s “Cutthroat Kitchen,” Top Ten in the World Food Championships Recipe category for breakfast foods, and most recently second place in 2018’s WFC Chef category. She also has succeeded with first place wins for the 2016 Taste of America Challenge for the state of Texas, and 2018 Taste of the Island.
For us, the great news is that her award-winning dishes from the 2016 and 2018 World Food Championship are on the menu at The Black Marlin. The top-selling item is the shrimp and grits, which starts with a creamy creole base and an exceptional cheese that is special ordered out of Utah to bring flavor into the whole dish. The shrimp are cooked in heavy cream, adding even more flavor to the plate and furnishing the most cheesy, cheesy grits with lots of flavors. “The love we put into it is a totally different style,” says Huesmann.
The shrimp and crawfish étouffée won most recently in the 2018 WFC Championship. A perfect balance of seafood, the shrimp and crawfish are prepared in a creamy creole style base. This dish has the Cajun trinity of onions, celery, and bell pepper, mixed with corn in a creamy sauce that goes on top of white rice. “That’s the dish that got me the golden ticket to the World Food Championships,” Huesmann says excitedly.
This year will be the second year for the Texas Super Chef Throw Down in Port Aransas – the event is a qualifier for WFC 2019 in Dallas. “I want to continue to keep Port A. and the Coastal Bend on the culinary map,” she says. “I want it to be a food destination!”