King Neptune’s Seafood wins top award at New Orleans show

Al Sawyer and Diane Bush first opened King Neptune’s Seafood Restaurant in a tiny enclave at Gaslight Square in Gulf Shores back in 1993.

But in the two years since, they’ve gone from tiny to big.

Big enough to garner first place honors at the prestigious International Specialty Food Show cooking contest held in New Orleans September 23-25.

Sawyer teamed with Winston Stona, managing director of Busha Browne’s Co. Ltd., of Jamaica, to make delicious Caribbean shrimp and oyster recipes that easily wowed an international panel of judges.

I just could not believe it,” said Sawyer, who like Bush is a Lower Alabama native.

“Here we were in New Orleans, the preferred town of chefs world-wide. There were over 500 booths promoting hot and spicy products and specialty recipes, and a Gulf Shores restaurant wins.

“It’s amazing,” Sawyer added. “We beat people like Tabasco in their own backyard. Gulf Shores may not have as many restaurants as New York or New Orleans, but believe me, our restaurants are gaining a national reputation.”

Sawyer and Bush have a combined 45 years’ experience in the food and beverage industry between them.

Sawyer has worked for Bon Secour Fisheries (a company that has been distributing seafood for more than 100 years) since 1986, the same year Bush moved to Gulf Shores to start her restaurant career.

Originally a pick-up and delivery seafood retail service, King Neptune’s quickly expanded to a dining area which they just as quickly outgrew.

Bush and Sawyer purchased their current property at 1137 Gulf Shores Parkway (across from Zooland) in March of 1994 and have been carving a niche among Gulf Shores fine eateries ever since.

“The variety of seafood in this area gives us an endless list of recipes and menus,” Sawyer said. “That is why we wanted to open a seafood restaurant in the first place. The dishes can be as creative and varied as your imagination.

“We combine the best of everything,” he added, “Bon Secour shrimp and oysters along with fine Jamaican Busha Browne’s products.”

A name synonymous with Jamaican cuisine, Stona is a personal friend of Bush and Sawyer who brought a special Caribbean flavor to his demonstration during the show.

Founding partner and managing director of Busha Brownes’s Co., Ltd., Stona is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and has appeared in feature films, including Walt Disney’s “Cool Running.”

The International Specialty Food Show gave those who were able to participate the opportunity to see and taste the newest and most innovative gourmet products, gain knowledge form industry leaders, and network with other specialty food retailers, manufacturers and notable chefs.

Only industry professionals – and not the public – were able to attend.

Featured speakers included some of the world’s best-known chefs, including Paul Prudhomme, responsible for propelling authentic Louisiana cooking into the mainstream, and nationally renowned Thai chef Tommy Tang.