Amateur cook wins rockfish contest; Presentation: Don L. Young prepared grilled fillets with a tart relish, roasted red-pepper sauce and crunchy leek strips.


OCEAN CITY -- A former restaurant cook who grudgingly decided that a career in the food business wasn't for him beat five chefs and other competitors in the second annual Maryland Rockfish Cooking Contest here.

Don L. Young of Chester, a self-employed certified water and waste-water facility operator who as recently as two years ago was considering a career in the kitchen, took home the $500 first prize for his Rock in the Rough. Judges tasted 10 entries before awarding the top prize to Young's dish, which matched grilled rockfish fillets with a tart relish; vibrantly colored, roasted red-pepper sauce; and crunchy leek strips.

Young, 40, worked as a line cook in Talbot County restaurants in the late '70s, then practiced the basics during six years as a mess specialist in the Navy Reserve. Even though he wound up specializing in water and waste-water facility operation, he went back into Eastern Shore restaurant kitchens in 1996 and 1997 to see if he wanted to make a career change.

"I found out that I wasn't making ends meet doing that, even though I enjoyed it," he said. "You've got to put food on the table. I left that and got back into something where I could make some money."

Young finished second in the rockfish contest last year and believes a more elaborate presentation brought him the victory silver plate. He tested and perfected his recipe with the help of friends and family.

"If I ever say that I'm going to be cooking something, everybody's very anxious to come over and taste what I've done," Young said. "Usually, I can't stop at one or two courses. I have to do seven."

The other two contest winners were both chefs. Harry W. Anderson of Nantuckets Restaurant in Fenwick Island, Del., finished second with Baked Rockfish With Duchess Potatoes. Kevin Jones of MacGregor's Restaurant in Havre de Grace was third with Grilled Rockfish.

A free brochure with all 10 recipes from the 1999 contest is available by writing to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, Seafood Marketing Program, 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Md. 21401, or by calling the Seafood Marketing Program at 410-841-5820.

The second annual Maryland Rockfish Cooking Contest on Jan. 30 was sponsored by the Seafood Marketing Program, Maryland Commercial Fishermen and Maryland Seafood Processors. It took place at the East Coast Commercial Fishermen's and Aquaculture Trade Expo in Ocean City, and is the centerpiece of the fourth annual Maryland Rockfish Celebration, intended to draw attention to the tasty fish.

Don L. Young's Rock in the Rough

Serves 4-6


2 kiwi, skin removed and quartered

1 mango, skin removed; cut fruit from seed and coarsely dice

1/2 cucumber, skin removed, seeded, coarsely diced

1 tablespoon prepared pickled ginger

1 clove garlic, coarsely diced

1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar

salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon Accent

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Put all ingredients in food processor and mix until the consistency of relish. Remove to a container and refrigerate.


1 leek

peanut oil for deep-frying

Cut leek in half and wash thoroughly to remove any dirt. Dry completely. Cut into 3-inch strips. Fry in hot oil (350 degrees or hotter) for 15 to 30 seconds or until crisp. Remove to bowl with paper towel in it to soak up oil. Keep warm but do not cover.


2 red bell peppers

1/4 of a medium yellow onion, skin removed

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon dry mustard

2 teaspoons sambal oelek (see note)

1/4 teaspoon thyme

1/4 teaspoon coriander

1/2 teaspoon dill weed

1/2 teaspoon Accent

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

salt and pepper

Grill peppers until skin is blackened on all sides. Remove from grill, place in a bowl and cover with foil. After 10 minutes, remove from bowl. Skin, seed and cut into quarters. Set aside.

Grill onion while grilling peppers, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from grill and quarter.

Put the peppers, onion, parsley, celery seed, dry mustard, sambal oelek, thyme, coriander, dill weed and Accent in a food processor; mix until very fine. Slowly add olive oil to mixture and blend until smooth. Put contents of food processor in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add cream and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Note: Sambal oelek is a condiment made of chilies, brown sugar and salt; available at Asian food stores.


2 pounds rockfish fillets with skin and bloodline removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

Old Bay seasoning

fresh parsley, minced

After preparing the relish and cream sauce, brush fish with oil and lightly salt and pepper. Brush grill surface with oil. Grill fish 3-4 minutes per side, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

To serve: For each serving, use a large round plate. Put cream sauce in the center of the plate and swirl it out to the sides. Place the fish in the center of the plate. Put spoonfuls of the relish on the sides of the plate. Top the fish with a crisp of leek. Garnish entire plate with Old Bay and minced parsley.

Pub Date: 02/10/99

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