Chinooks wins Alaska Seafood Contest
Chinooks Restaurant of Seward took first place at the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s second annual Great Alaska Seafood Cook-off. The win was an improvement from last year when the restaurant’s team placed second in the same competition. The live competition featured finalists from around the state of Alaska culled from around 20 entrants at the Bill Sheffield Railroad Depot on May 8.
Chinook’s Chef Kevin Lane and Lori LeMaster, who owns Chinooks with her husband Dan Butts, were the winning team from a field of competitors that included Anchorage chefs Drew Johnson of Kincaid Grill, Brett Knipmeyer of Kinley’s Restaurant and Bar, and Robert Lewis of Maxine’s Fireweed Bistro. Stuart Campbell from Hoonah’s Icy Strait Point in Hoonah and Mandy Dixon of Homer’s La Baleine Cafe rounded out the field.
The dish that took first place was a unique black cod recipe that Lane created. It featured a fresh piece of black cod straight off the commercial fishing vessel Kruzof owned by Jim and Rhonda Hubbard, owners of J&R Fisheries LLC. The cod was wrapped in a sourdough crust and came with a Yukon Gold potato puree and a sauté of sea beans, shitake mushrooms and onions. There was also smoked salmon and veal jus topped with a tempura sea bean, and a sweet and savory chutney made from rhubarb and spruce-tip syrup. They couldn’t get long green sea beans locally at this time of year, said LeMaster. But at a certain time of year one can actually collect them off the beach at Lowell Point.
Six Alaska chefs were given an hour each before celebrity judges and an audience of hundreds competing for the title of best seafood cook in the state. As the victor, Chef Lane travels to New Orleans in August to represent Alaska at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off. Before his present position at Chinooks, Lane was the head chef and cooking instructor at AVTEC’s Culinary Academy in Seward.
Winning the cooking competition, which highlights wild Alaska fisheries, may help boost their efforts to bring a little more exposure to the restaurant for customers from across the state, said Butts. As a result of the added exposure, not only Sewardites will be recommending them to potential customers. Chinooks will likely offer the prize-winning meal as a special in the future.
Chinooks’ owners embrace the philosophy of supporting and promoting Alaska’s commercial fisheries over farmed fish. “We’d never dream of having any farmed fish,” said Butts. A notice on the entrance door, and notes on all of the tables emphasize that their fish is fresh-caught, wild Alaskan. Butts even removed the popular calamari dish from the menu after taking ownership of the restaurant, because it wasn’t Alaska seafood. The restaurant, now with local owners, and open year round offers scallops from J&R fisheries, razor clams from Cook Inlet, oysters from Katchemak Bay, and troll-caught king salmon from southeast Alaska, especially early in the season. Later, when more salmon are in season, they will purchase and serve more locally-caught wild Alaska salmon.
On Aug. 3 Chinooks will face national competition at the Great American Seafood Cook-Off is in New Orleans. The cook-off is open to the public while the umbrella event, the Louisiana Restaurant Association Food Service Expo, is open only to food service professionals. Information is at http://www.greatalaskaseafoodcookoff.com and http://www.greatamericanseafoodcookoff.com.