Four years ago, Ian Adams joined the Charleston Clover 4-H Club because he wanted to learn how to cook.
“I got tired of frozen pizza,” he said. “I needed to learn how to make something else.”
Now, the 18-year-old is one of three students on a Charleston-based team headed to compete in the Great American Seafood Cook-Off in New Orleans.
Adams and his teammates won the state 4-H cooking contest in Columbia, which qualified them for the national contest Aug. 4. There, they will be tasked with preparing a traditional South Carolina recipe and will compete against teams from Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Georgia and Tennessee.
They landed on limpin’ Susan, made with greater amberjack fish, Carolina Gold Rice, okra and peppers.
Betty Osgood, one of their coaches, said the dish will stand out for at least one reason.
“As far as we know, no one from South Carolina has used a Gullah recipe at the contest before,” she said. “We wanted to do something that was really relevant to our area and special.”
The team has been practicing the recipe weekly.
“We want to be able to do it with our eyes closed,” Adams said.
The students put their own spin on the dish, which, according to contest rules, must be under 750 calories per serving. During the cook-off, they’ll have an hour to prepare and plate five servings to be judged. The winning team gets a $1,000 prize.
Osgood, who has been a 4-H volunteer leader for 31 years, said going to the national cook-off is rare for a South Carolina team. She has only attended one other time.
Now that Adams, who is home-schooled, counts cooking as one his favorite hobbies, he said competing in New Orleans will fulfill a longtime dream.
“Considering I’ve been trying to go for four years, I feel really excited about it,” he said. “It feels great to be representing South Carolina.”