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You don't think corn dogs are haute cuisine? These chefs, using alligator sausage, beg to differ.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Stefani De Palma, an award-winning chef and head of the a team vying to represent the Americas in a French culinary competition in January, knew she wanted her team's work to feature flavors of her native California.
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Bradley Waddle, left, stands with Stefani De Palma at Emeril’s restaurant in New Orleans, Thursday, June 13, 2024. De Palma is the head chef and Waddle is the commis chef for Team USA at the Bocuse d’Or Americas culinary competition in New Orleans this week. (AP Photo/Stephen Smith)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Stefani De Palma, an award-winning chef and head of the a team vying to represent the Americas in a French culinary competition in January, knew she wanted her team's work to feature flavors of her native California.

The challenge at the Bocuse d'Or Americas competition this week in New Orleans was to also incorporate regional ingredients from the host city — specifically wild boar, alligator sausage, grits and Gulf of Mexico seafood.

Among the results: a corn dog.

“We were really excited to hear that we would be using alligator sausage. And, so, Bradley said, ‘We have to do a corn dog,’ ” De Palma said Thursday as she sat next to Bradley Waddle, the commis chef on Team USA. “So, I'm like, ‘Show me a refined corn dog and let’s work through it.' "

Their corn dog features alligator boudin battered in a mixture using buttermilk, ground grits and corn meal.

There's also what DePalma called a “California Celebration of Louisiana shellfish."

“We incorporated beautiful tomatoes, corn, squash, squash blossoms. So, really, really fun things that really spoke to just the bounty of California,” she said during an Associated Press interview at Emeril's, the namesake restaurant of celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

De Palma, 35, gained culinary fame working for Chef William Bradley at Addison in San Diego. She joined the restaurant's staff in 2008, worked her way up to Chef de Cuisine in 2016 and was part of the team that earned Addison the top honor — three stars — in the Michelin Guide in 2022. She left to head Team USA, the third woman to lead the team since Bocuse d'Or was begun in 1987.

Waddle, 22 and also a California native, said he has been cooking since he was 9. He started working in restaurants at 16 and nabbed a job with California restaurateur and chef Thomas Keller in 2021.

“I moved to England shortly after to work in a Michelin star restaurant on the Southwest coast,” he said. “And then through some connections I had from Thomas Keller’s restaurant group I was put in contact with Stefani for the competition.”

They have been training for the competition at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa, California.

Nine nations from North and South America are represented in the competition. Five teams will advance to the finals in Lyon, France, in January.

Both chefs expressed gratitude at being able to represent the U.S. in the competition with some of the world's finest chefs. And they were appreciative of the New Orleans experience.

“To me, New Orleans is just soul,” De Palma said. “It’s people cooking with love and from their hearts and so much strong, bold flavor .... We were really fortunate to work with beautiful ingredients that New Orleans provided.”

Stephen Smith And Kevin Mcgill, The Associated Press