It’s only logical that with 77 teams, the number that’s competing in this year’s Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic, a wide spectrum of boat names will be represented. In fact, there’s nearly one for entire alphabet, from A (A Reel Dive) to Y (You Never Know!). There are nicknames for family members (Share-E and Annie Girl), business interests (Cotton Patch) and passions (Relentless Pursuit and Fun Factor). And of course, all types of angling-related monikers, including six with the word Reel.

Also new this year is one that is a double entendre or meaning. It is the Aldente, a customized 70-foot Viking that’s owned by celebrity chef, restaurateur and cookbook author Emeril Lagasse. The boat is appropriately named for the chef’s wife, Alden, as well as the cooking technique al dente, where pasta and vegetables are prepared firm to the bite.

“We retired our older boat, the Ole Miss and took delivery of this new one last fall,” Lagasse said as the crew loaded provisions aboard, including a long list of grocery items from Publix. “The name is the perfect combo between my wife and my passion for cooking.” Aldente is home-ported at the Baytowne Marina in Sandestin, with Capt. Brad Benton at the helm.

“This boat has really changed our game plan a lot,” Lagasse explained. “We now have the speed and range to compete with everyone else. I’ve been fishing since I was a little boy and seriously offshore the last 15 years. With everything I’ve got going on I don’t have a lot of time, but when I do get a moment, it’s all about family and fishing.”

Lagasse and his veteran crew (with a combined 150 years of experience) planned to run out 60 miles or so and put out a spread to tune things up. The ECBC is the first tournament in the new ride. The weekend strategy calls for live baiting as well as trolling.

“We don’t want to catch that monster great white shark swimming around out there in the Gulf, but we would like to catch what it’s eating,” he said with a hearty laugh. “We like to mix it up and will probably end up to the west, off the mouth of the river [Mississippi].”

In addition to the typical tackle arsenal, as you’d expect Aldente is equipped with a custom grill and oven and the chef loves to handle the culinary chores offshore.

“We’ll cook some dinner, get a good night’s sleep and be ready to go. The weather is going to be great, maybe a little warm, so we’ve just got to find ‘em. The big ones are out there and it’s going to take a 700-pounder or larger to win it.”

With a record tournament purse of $1.68 million on the line, it’s time for Aldente—and the rest of the fleet—to kick it up a notch! The scales open at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon and fishing continues through Saturday.