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GRAND ISLE, La.-- They are James Beard award winners, Food Network stars, Top Chef consultants and cook some of the most prized dishes in the country. Now they have a single message: Stop worrying about seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and start buying it.

With dozens of idle shrimp boats docked in the marina where they spoke, the chefs came to get a firsthand look at the safety and availability of Louisiana seafood.

'The Gulf is a big area and it's still being fished,' said Tom Colicchio, a James Beard winner, owner of several restaurants and a judge on the television series Top Chef.

Colicchio said he usually prefers seafood from the North Atlantic, but pledged to serve Louisiana seafood in his restaurants.

Although fishing has been shut down in some areas of the Gulf because of the massive BP oil spill, 70 percent of the Gulf remains open and seafood in those areas is untainted, said Robert J. Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The problem is a perception, both in Louisiana and around the world, that Gulf seafood is tainted by the spill, he and the chefs said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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