“California Dreamin’ Sea Bass” dish takes Top Chef on Cruise

Allison Collins
Allison Collins prepping dish in round 1 on Top Chef at Sea


I want to apologize for the lack of postings to the column lately.

I wish I had some awesome explanation for my absence, but the truth of the matter is life has been busy and I have had a lack of inspiration. Between weekend adventures at the beach and my weekly routine of work, bible studies, girls nights, etc. I have been cooking basic meals and eating leftovers.

Last week, though, I escaped on a wonderful family vacation to ALASKA! This trip was something that my parents had planned for a year involving them, my brother and sister-in-law, and me. We boarded the ship in Seattle, and spent our first day at sea before hitting the great Frontier of Alaska. We hit three ports while up north and in each one sampled great local, fresh seafood.

In Ketchikan, I dined on salmon and cod and in Juneau I devoured crab. That doesn’t even begin to cover the other amazing dishes like lobster and lamb that we had on board the ship. The cruise was great and getting off at port was so much fun. It was a great way to see the state and just learn about the towns and people who live there.

Unfortunately not every day was spent at a port; in fact we had about two and half “days at sea” where we were cruising from place to place on the vast wide ocean. During these days, we occupied our time with various shows, activities, and naps. On the last “at sea” day, the cruise had an activity based off one of my favorite shows, “Top Chef”!

Allison Collins and bro
Allison and her brother ready to go ‘mano a mano’ in Top Chef at Sea

My family was immediately excited and both my brother and I participated. We have always wanted to to see who is the better chef, so this was the perfect opportunity. My mom outfitted us in some cool Alaska themed aprons so that we stood out in the crowd. Sure enough, we both got chosen.

The competition consisted of two rounds; a team quick-fire and then a head to head elimination- winner take all type of challenge. Unfortunately the host split up my brother and me so we were not together. Looked like we would face off sooner than we thought. The first round we were in pairs and had 15 minutes to squeeze oranges by hand, grate a block of cheese, take rosemary leaves off the stems, peel potatoes, and whip egg whites into meringue by hand! I got right to work on the egg whites while my partner squeezed and grated. Eventually the clock counted down and it was time to evaluate how we had done. The results were in, and my team won!

Excited and in a slight daze from winning, it was time for my partner and I to be split up and go head to head. I had Sea Bass, he had Steak. We had 15 minutes to create a dish and serve it to three judges. We would be judged on name of the dish, presentation, and taste. My opponent went first and got some high scores from all the judges. I was up next. My dish, “California Dreamin’ Sea Bass”, was served with seasoned sautéed summer vegetables (you can find the recipe below). The judges started out slowly taking small bites and taking in the entire flavor, but eventually they started eating more and more until the plate was almost empty! They gave their scores, and I had WON!!!

I was the Top Chef at Sea this week and it felt awesome! The competition was intense and slightly nerve-racking, but I prevailed to be the ultimate champion. I was bummed I didn’t get to compete with my brother or against him in the final round, but I have a feeling we will have a rematch during the holidays. If I am being completely honest, we make a great team together: Kyle cooking, I on desserts and Karen (his wife) taste testing!

Hope you get a chance to try out this recipe and maybe even grab a friend to have your own little competition!

Sea Bass:

-Season with salt and pepper

-Heat some olive oil in a pan and sear the fish on both sides until it begins to get a nice golden color. About 5 minutes on each side.

-Pull out of pan and let set.


-chop of some vegetables of choice. I used yellow squash, zucchini, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, and fingerling potatoes.

-heat some olive oil in a pan then add two tablespoons butter. Add the vegetables and season with thyme or rosemary, salt, and pepper. Sautee for 7-10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. In the last two minutes, add some minced garlic and diced onion.


Lay the vegetables on the plate, and place the fish on top of the vegetables. Garnish with some greens and place a circle of balsamic saw in a circle around the food. Place two lemon slices on the plate.