BBRSDA tour of Bristol Bay concludes with chefs' dinner

Jul 6, 2015

Chefs Rob Kinneen and William Dissen joined BBRSDA representatives and food writers for a week-long tour of the Bay's fishery. 

Guests enjoyed a spread of salmon appetizers. In the foreground is North Carolina chef William Dissen's creation: "a sockeye salmon crudo... shingled with grapefruit, some nice olive oil, toasted macademia nuts, shaved radish, aji amarillo peppers sliced thin, some foraged pea greens from the beach here in Naknek, and some nice Alaskan sea salt."
Credit Hannah Colton/KDLG

Earlier this week, several out-of-state chefs and food writers visited Bristol Bay with the BBRSDA.

The group took an aerial tour of the fishery, went sport fishing, visited Brooks Camp in Katmai, and met local processors and subsistence fishermen in Naknek. The trip culminated in a dinner at a lodge in King Salmon, featuring salmon appetizers prepared by the two visiting chefs.

Rob Kinneen, who is Tlingit and Irish, co-owns Carved Catering in Anchorage. Kinneen helped coordinate the weekend with BBRSDA. He’s traveled all over the state teaching and learning about native plants and foods, but he says this was his first time in Bristol Bay.

"The idea was to actually go up and see the fishery in action, but even to see how it happens or to understand the sheer quantity of fish that is processed in this area is amazing," said Kinneen. 

William Dissen is chef and owner of the Marketplace Restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina. His restaurant focuses on sourcing local and sustainable foods. Dissen says he was introduced to Bristol Bay salmon about four years ago.

"One day, I got a knock on the kitchen door, and there was this nice young woman there, and she said 'Hey, my name’s Heidi Dunlap.' And I said 'okay, how can I help you?'  and she had a bunch of frozen salmon. She said, 'Hey, I live here in Asheville, but I fish in Bristol Bay. I'd love start selling you salmon, I love what you're doing with sustainable seafood..." But I quickly turned up my nose and said 'I don't buy frozen fish, only the freshest fish for my customers.' And so she pulled out a fillet and said 'Look, I understand, but give it a try, cook it up... If you love it, give me a call. If not, you had a healthy lunch." So i defrosted it, I cooked it, I ate it... and I called her a half hour later and ordered a thousand pounds."

Dissen says that experience changed his mind about frozen fish.

“I think as a chef I have a pretty refined palate," Dissen said, "and I can’t tell the difference between fresh fish and frozen fish.”

Dissen says he now thinks frozen fillets are the next big thing in the seafood industry.

Among the guests who enjoyed Dissen and Kinneen’s dishes were food journalists Louisa Chu and Barry Estabrook, as well as former BBRSDA Director Sue Aspelund.

Contact the author at hannah@kdlg.org. 

Tags: