Winner, winner, whitefish dinner

Chef Seth VanderLaan’s Lake Superior whitefish and lake herring impressed not only professional judges in the Lake Superior Fish Classic, but the people, too.

For the first time in three competitions, one dish won the top spot among judges and the people’s choice award.

VanderLaan’s dish was seared whitefish with creamy grits, sweet corn chow chow and poached herring butter.

Lead judge Don Miller, with the University of Notre Dame, said the “seared whitefish was cooked perfectly. The herring was smoked lightly and counterbalanced the creaminess of the sauce.”

VanderLaan and his team from the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee won $1,500 for their efforts against six other competing chefs.

Coming in second place was Chef Scott Graden from the New Scenic Cafe in Duluth. Graden won the Superior Award and $750 for his dish: root vegetable hash with lake herring.

Miller said Graden was “impeccable in the kitchen. By far, out of everybody, he did the best job of filleting and cleaning the fish.”

Graden’s culinary career began when he and his aunt bough the New Scenic Cafe in 1999.