Bristol Bay herring won a top distinction at the Alaska Symphony of Seafood gala in Anchorage this weekend.
Icicle Seafoods' Warner Lew of Seattle took first place in the food service category for his Deckhand's Daughter Seafoods’ canned smoked herring.
Lews says the recipe goes back about five years to Togiak, where a tender skipper named Larry Jones brought him a jar of smoked herring.
"I'm thinking, good god, are you kidding me? Herring? So I nibbled at it..." says Lew. "And by the end of the week, I was addicted."
Soon, Lew started selling the smoked herring to a restaurateur in Seattle.
He says he’s been promoting underrated seafood products -- like sea cucumbers in Southeast Alaska and geoducks in the Puget Sound -- since he started Deckhand Seafoods in the 1980s.
"Every time I think I see something of value that’s being undervalued, I jump on it," said Lew. "Like herring -- the fishery's dying because the only market is the Japanese market, and they want the roe. After eating Larry's product, I thought, we’re eating the wrong end of the fish! Smoked herring is delicious; we gotta do something."
Lew hopes this win will help herring find a wider market.
The grand prize of the gala this weekend went to Bambinos Baby Food, which also took first place in the retail category and People's Choice for their Hali Halibut baby food.
Smoked Salmon Caviar made by Juneau’s Alaska Seafood Company won the new “Beyond the Egg” category for roe products.
In gala events held earlier this year, the Hali Halibut baby food won the People’s Choice award in Juneau, and Trident Seafoods’ Fiesta Salmon Bites won the popular category in Seattle.
The Symphony of Seafood is an annual event coordinated by the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, Inc.