The key to a great seafood meal on the Vineyard naturally lies in the best ingredients: just-caught fish, farm-fresh produce and a talented chef.

At the second annual Seafood Throwdown on Saturday, the organizers brought all three together in the hot summer sun at the West Tisbury Farmers’ Market.

A competition between two Island chefs, the throwdown is designed to raise awareness about locally-caught fish and an Island initiative called Vineyard Wild Caught Seafood.

Plus it’s great fun to watch, like the Iron Chef television series.

The two chefs going head-to-head on Saturday were Chris Fischer, 31, a private chef and the owner of Beetlebung Farm in Chilmark, and Josh Aronie, 41, well-known chef and owner of the Menemsha Cafe. The three judges were Charlie Kernick of West Tisbury, Karen Pickus of Chilmark and New York city, and Joan Nathan of Washington, D.C. and Chilmark.

With a large audience gathered at the front of the Grange Hall, the chefs arrived dressed in white aprons, like two boxers entering a ring. They were introduced to the audience by emcee Warren Doty, president of the Martha’s Vineyard/Dukes County Fishermen’s Association and a Chilmark selectman. Also on hand for the competition was Niaz Dorry, a coordinating director with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance who came up with the idea for the Seafood Throwdown. She said the idea began with a meeting at her kitchen table between herself and Jessica Hayes, a farmers’ market manager in Gloucester, three years ago. They were trying to come up with a way to promote locally caught fish that went beyond the usual booth with brochures. Since the first Vineyard Seafood Throwdown last summer, she said she had done 10 such events.

The time was 9:30 a.m. Mr. Doty announced the seafood of the day, a secret until that moment.

It was bluefish.

With $50 in hand, each chef, accompanied by their assistants, rushed through the stands at the market picking up the ingredients needed to prepare a full meal with bluefish as the centerpiece. They had until 11 a.m. to deliver their meal to the three judges. Each was provided with an identical set of cooking equipment: a gas range and grill.

Mr. Doty assured chefs and audience that the bluefish was fresh, right out of the water, and he said the chefs could have all they needed to prepare their meal.

Soon the chefs were back from the shopping spree with their assistants, chopping ingredients on cutting boards and filleting fish.

And then it was the final hour of the cooking contest. The smell of fragrant herbs floated in the air. Flames rose from the gas ranges. Smoke streamed out from under the closed grill.

With the help of his assistant Myles Montjoi, Mr. Fischer made bluefish sashimi, preparing it simply with lemon juice. He took the skin off the fish and cooked it until it was crisp like bacon.

Aided by his assistant Alex Kemper, Mr. Aronie grilled the bluefish, using Mermaid Farm yogurt as a topping in place of the traditional mayonnaise. He added a dash of the Middle Eastern spice za’atar. He made a bluefish broth.

In the end Mr. Fischer emerged the winner of the event, but only by a tiny fish scale. Only one point separated Mr. Fischer, 82, from Mr. Aronie, 81.

Judging criteria included taste, presentation, originality and use of the whole fish.

Ms. Nathan, a renowned food writer, praised the talents of the chefs. “I am always amazed at how they can think and have the confidence to go through with what they do. And to be judged,” she said, adding: “I thought the fish they cooked was very tender and that is one of my criticisms of grilling. I like baked fish. I think they did a great job and I thought they were very creative.”

She concluded: “What is so amazing to me is the Vineyard food scene. It is amazing that all the local produce, the fishermen are selling now directly to the consumer. It is all getting fresher and fresher.”

For more information about Vineyard Wild Caught Seafood, visit: For more information about the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance, visit