The 12th annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cook-Off returns this November
By Jessica Taylor|Correspondent
Although the days are getting shorter and the weather cooler, fall on the Outer Banks is an exciting time, especially for the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research.
We still see many bottlenose dolphins on our research surveys throughout the sound into October. But, one by one, our seasonal residents will start to disappear, following their food out to the ocean and venturing down to their overwintering site near Beaufort.
The Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research conducts a long-term monitoring study of dolphins in Roanoke Sound and tracks individuals using a research technique known as photo-identification. By photographing distinctive markings on the dorsal fins of dolphins and cataloging these photographs, we can learn about the ecology, movement patterns, and behaviors of dolphins in the Outer Banks.
In the fall, our research center is busy finishing up our field season, processing our data, initiating analyses to better understand the dolphins, and planning our biggest fundraiser of the year, the annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cook-Off.
Every year, local chefs compete to see who can prepare the best shrimp dish. Over the years, chefs have met the challenge by creating delicious and creative appetizers that tantalize the taste buds. Dishes such as shrimp/kale mousse, jalapeno shrimp toast, California style wonton wrapped shrimp, and lemon-poached shrimp over scallion polenta with smoked gouda have impressed judges, participants, and fellow chefs alike.
A large silent auction features generous donations from local businesses as well. An entry fee gets you a taste of each shrimp dish and a vote for your favorite. Chefs are eligible to win a People’s Choice and/or Judge’s Choice prize. All proceeds benefit the Outer Banks Center for Dolphin Research and provide significant funding for our field research and outreach expenses.
Those costs have ranged from research vessels, boat engines, and boat gas to the publication of scientific papers and posters to teach others about dolphin conservation. The festival is typically held the first Sunday of every November at Ocean Boulevard Bistro and Martini Bar in Kitty Hawk from noon to 3 p.m.
The idea for the Outer Banks Shrimp Cook-Off came about during a Wednesday night sailing cruise among friends from Colington Harbour. The group made plans for a new nonprofit to raise funds to promote environmental conservation and sustainability in the Outer Banks. Over time, it expanded into an exciting annual event, growing every year.
The arrival of the COVID-19 virus and social distancing guidelines in 2020 inspired the Annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cookoff to become a shrimp crawl, with individual restaurants providing shrimp dishes at the restaurant locations, a virtual silent auction online, and an overwhelming amount of support for the new format.
Going into our 12th year of this fundraiser, the cookoff will again be held as a shrimp crawl. What should you expect this year in 2021? More restaurants with mouthwatering shrimp dishes, silent auction items to satisfy every person on your holiday shopping list, and increased outreach opportunities to learn about supporting local dolphin conservation.
At $25 per ticket, people can visit up to four local restaurants for a tasty shrimp dish over the course of the first weekend of November. The 12th Annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cook-Off/Crawl will continue to showcase the talent of the area’s finest chefs while providing a safe atmosphere for supporting local conservation efforts.
As important indicators of environmental health, bottlenose dolphins are key to understanding the health of the sound and coastal environment upon which our economy is dependent. The need to better understand environmental health and our local marine mammals is immediate and pressing. With every research survey, we are closer to determining long-term trends in the health and population size of our local dolphins which is a reflection of the sustainability of our coastal resources.
This fall, in between preparing Halloween costumes and cooking turkey dinner, I hope that you come out to sample the smorgasbord of shrimp our talented local chefs will prepare over the 1st weekend of November and participate in the Annual Outer Banks Shrimp Cook-Off/Crawl, an event that has made our research and conservation efforts possible for the last 12 years. By sampling delectable shrimp, your contribution will help to support more than a decade-long research effort to unravel the mysteries of our local charismatic marine mammals and, ultimately, protect our beautiful coastal environment.
For updates on the cook-off, please see obshrimp.com or obxdolphins.org.