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Taceaux Loceaux's BP-Sponsored Seafood Giveaway
by Brad Rhines
This free, curbside taco was brought to you by BP. As New Orleans rang in the New Year with packed hotel rooms and football fever, the excitement spread far beyond the Superdome. Blimps and billboards shined overhead, as corporate entities like Allstate, AT&T, and even the much-maligned British Petroleum were taking advantage of the crowds, and making their presence known around town. The oil company that was responsible for the Big Oozy sponsored the “Gulf Coast Seafood and Tourism 2012 Bash,” a two-week push to support local seafood and help clean up their own image.
The stunt struck many as doing the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. With last fall's white shrimp harvest down and lots of fomenting anxiety about next year's oyster crop, locals continue to feel a need to promote Louisiana's seafood industry as it tries to pull itself back up. But, like always, BP's promotions contain a sunny picture of a fully recovered Gulf Coast that seems to obscure the long-term impacts of the oil disaster.
Plaquemines Parish fisherman A.C. Cooper told the AP the overall campaign distorts the image of the Gulf Coast's recovery.
"The numbers on our shrimp are way down," he said. "They (BP) make it sound like they're doing a lot, but they're not doing much to help the fishermen out ... I got good fishermen struggling to pay their bills right now."
On the streets of New Orleans, Uptown food truck Taceaux Loceaux got in on the Bash, giving away free seafood taceaux during the promotion, much to the delight of tourists and locals alike. NoDef caught up with Taceaux Loceaux co-owner Maribeth Del Castillo to talk about the navigating the rough waters between big oil and local fish.
According to Del Castillo, Taceaux Loceaux was contacted just days before the event and asked if they were interested in participating in the Gulf seafood promotion. “We agreed to that because the times that we have done seafood, we’ve always used Gulf Coast seafood,” Del Castillo told NoDef. “It was a good way for us to help promote a product we already believe in.”
The truck set up around town at bars like Kingpin and along Canal St. at the aquarium, giving away free spicy Gulf shrimp taceaux inspired by the coastal cuisine of Oaxaca and the Yucatan Peninsula. They also made fresh ceviche with blacktip shark and Louisiana black drum. While Taceaux Loceaux has done seafood specials in the past, the overwhelmingly positive response has led them to consider doing seafood dishes more regularly.
“The response was really great,” said Del Castillo. “We actually got to see quite a few people that we hadn’t seen before, who didn’t know about the truck. We had a lot of folks from a lot of the games who were coming up, so we thought it went really well.”
Nevertheless, some critics and skeptics can’t get past the fact that the promotion was funded by BP. Del Castillo understands the anger directed at the oil giant, but she also believes in supporting the people whose livelihoods depend on Gulf Coast seafood.
“As far as BP is concerned, I think they’ve got a lot of damage control to do, and they’re going to have to reach out to the community for years,” Del Castillo said. “We didn’t really view it as something that helps them so much as it was something that helps the entire Gulf Coast.”
BP, like the Army Corps of Engineers, will long be considered enemies of the state by most Louisianans, and throwing money at the problem is unlikely to save their reputation. Still, regardless of BP’s motives, supporting the local seafood economy—from fishermen, to the hospitality and service industries, to the tourists and locals devoted to the fruits of the Gulf—seems to be a top priority for Del Castillo and others, like chefs Emeril Lagasse and John Besh, who also participated in the promotion.
“Obviously I think BP’s initial concern is to change how people perceive them, and that’s not going to happen with something like this,” admitted Del Castillo. “But I’m glad they are taking steps, and I feel like if they can become a better company and better people,” she said with a chuckle, “then that would be fantastic.”
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