Lionfish Creole made by Digby Lewis of Union.

If you’ve ever wondered whether lionfish are edible, now you have your answer.

Chefs from Mayreau and Union Island entered 12 dishes in Mayreau’s 1st Annual Lionfish Cooking Contest, which was part of the Hairoun Beer Mayreau Regatta.

Chef Digby Lewis, from Union Island, took home top honours for his Lionfish Bake. Chef Alexander “Zannie” Adams, of Mayreau’s Combination Café, took 2nd place with his Lionfish Gratin, and Mayreau’s Robert Lewis of Robert Righteous and De Youth got 3rd place with his creative dish called Head in Heart – Eve Place.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to all of the chefs who participated as well as to our three judges,” said Nancy Saul-Demers of the Mayreau Regatta and Sporting Committee.

“Our representative Terrance Ollivierre, Glenroy Adams of Grenadines Dive and Father Rex Ramos had the challenging task of choosing the best dishes based on taste, which was 70 per cent of the score, as well as presentation and creativity, which made up the rest of the score.”

Once the judges had handed in their scoring sheets, spectators were able to taste the dishes for just $1 per sample.

The 12 dishes they could try included: curry fried lionfish, 2 versions of jerk lionfish, lionfish cake and lionfish bake, lionfish ceviche, 2 versions of lionfish gratin, sautéed lionfish in sweet and sour sauce, fried lionfish in creole sauce as well as lionfish creole, and the head in heart – eve place, which looked like a lion.

“The main reason we held this contest was to demonstrate that lionfish are delicious,” said Saul-Demers. “What better way to do that than to challenge local chefs to prepare this wonderful mild and buttery white fish in their own special style. We hope that this experience will encourage the chefs to offer lionfish at their restaurants and to cook it at home for their families.”

Lionfish are an invasive species in the Caribbean and they threaten both local fish stocks and reefs.

“A single female lionfish can lay as many as 2 million eggs per year, so they’re multiplying rapidly in all areas they’ve invaded,” explained Saul-Demers. “They are also voracious predators that eat any fish or crustacean they can fit in their mouths. We must get them before they devour all of our fish, shrimp, lobsters and so on.”

This event was made possible by a grant provided by the United Nations’ Global Environment Foundation Small Grant Program. The funding is to be used to preserve and enhance the marine biodiversity in the Tobago Cays Marine Park and other waters surrounding the Grenadine islands by building capacity to effectively battle the lionfish invasion, which threatens our traditional fishery and tourism, two main industries on which the Grenadines depend.