Aviation News

May 20, 2012

Chefs Battle for Salmon Supremacy in Alaska Airlines Copper River Cook-Out

Frank Ragusa, general manager of Ocean Beauty Seafoods, holds up the prized salmon to the crowd. (Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/NYCAviation)
Frank Ragusa, general manager of Ocean Beauty Seafoods, holds up the prized salmon to the crowd. (Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/NYCAviation)
It has become a yearly tradition to wake up before it gets light and head on down to Alaska Air Cargo at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to welcome the season’s first Copper River Salmon. When that alarm goes off early in the morning, it is easy to question why would one get up so early to welcome some fish?

Well, this is not just any fish, but many say one of the best in the world. There was huge fanfare as airline employees, media and guests welcomed the VIP salmon to Seattle.

Alaska Copper River Salmon Cook Off Photos

“We’re proud to be the first to bring wild and sustainable Copper River salmon to seafood lovers across the country, in many cases within 24 hours after the fish is caught,” said Torque Zubeck, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo. “With enhanced food quality procedures and additional flights to support the Alaska seafood industry, we are going the extra mile to deliver seafood that’s as fresh as possible.”

The captain has the privilege to grab the largest fish and take it off the aircraft. This year, he was able to find a whopper — 55 pounds.

It is not just about welcoming some fish, but also to have an epic Alaska Air Cargo’s “Copper Chef Cook-off” featuring some of Seattle’s best chefs. This year executive chef Pat Donahue from Anthony’s Restaurant, Jason Wilson of CRUSH and Wayne A Johnson of Ray’s Boathouse competed to make the best Copper River Salmon dish in just 30 minutes.

The large fish was taken to be filet, divided up and given to the chefs. Each restaurant has their own outdoor cooking station and are able to do their thing.

During the 30 minute cook time, guests were entertained by local celebrity Jon Curley. He interacted with the cooks, judges and guests who each donated 75,000 miles to Make A Wish Foundation to earn a ticket to the event. A total of 1.2 million miles were donated for the event.

After the meals were prepared a panel of judges voted on the best. The judges consisted of Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariners Hall of Famer; Joanne Dunham, co-owner of Dunham Cellars; Gary Horner, senior winemaker at Erath Winery; and Bill Ayer, chairman of Alaska Air Group.

When everything was said and done, the winner for the third year in a row was Anthony’s Restaurant.

This is the third year that Alaska Cargo has celebrated the salmon and each year it seems to be a bit better. (See the events in 2011 and 2010)

Alaska Airlines flew nearly 25 million pounds of fresh Alaska seafood to the Lower 48 states and beyond last year, including nearly 1.8 million pounds of Copper River salmon. The airline flies a total of 115 million pounds of cargo annually.

We can’t send you a doggie bag, but you can try the winning recipes for yourself by clicking here.