Welcoming a 53lb Copper River salmon to Seattle

Welcoming a 53lb Copper River salmon to Seattle

In what town do people get up before 4:00am to greet some fish? In the land of the flying fish, of course!

This was the sixth year in a row that I woke up earlier than I probably should to greet my breakfast, which was flying in on an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 Combi. Why? Well, it is a special (aka delicious) kind of breakfast; some Copper River salmon.

Also, I  enjoy the fun event that Alaska Airlines puts on each year to celebrate the official start to the salmon season.

The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 Combi (reg N762AS) arrives to SEA

The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 Combi (reg N762AS) arrives to SEA

Why are these salmon different? Well, they like to travel — about 300 miles from the ocean to their spawning grounds and that type of journey requires lots of energy (aka fat). That fat gives the fish its special flavor for which many people are willing to pay a premium.

Captain Larry Packer and First Officer Peter Michels shows off the season's first Copper River salmon

Captain Larry Packer and First Officer Peter Michels shows off the season’s first Copper River salmon

“Alaska Air Cargo is proud to deliver the largest catch of wild Copper River salmon from our namesake to the masses here in Seattle and across the country,” said Betsy Bacon, Alaska Air Cargo managing director. “As the salmon season gets into full swing, our team is prepared to continue to bring fresh Alaska salmon to restaurants and consumers in the Lower 48 and points beyond.”

The Salmon-30-Salmon was hanging out before the real salmon arrived

The Salmon-30-Salmon was hanging out before the real salmon arrived

The 737 landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) a bit before 6:30am, with 18,000 pounds of Copper River salmon on-board.

Litterally tons of fish are taken off the 737

Literally tons of fish are taken off the 737

The fish used today was specially selected and weighed in at 53lbs. It was carried off the 737 by the captain and first officer to be greeted by a crowd made up of elite Alaska Airlines fliers, winners of a Facebook contest, media, airline employees, and some local chefs.

Tom Douglas talks about salmon, while it is filleted

Chef Tom Douglas (L) talks about salmon, and John Curley (C) emcees while the fish is filleted

When you are a fish, probably the last thing you want to see are chefs. But these aren’t just any chefs. These are some of Seattle’s finest and their mission was to square off against each other to create the best meal possible in a little friendly competition.

A BBQ with airplanes in the background? Yes please!

A BBQ with airplanes in the background? Yes please!

The chefs included were 2014 Copper Chef Cook-off champion John Howie, chef and owner of Seastar Restaurant & Bar and John Howie Steak House; Ethan Stowell, executive chef and owner of Tavolata, Anchovies & Olive; and Eric Tanaka, executive chef at TanakaSan.

Chef Ethan cooks up his Copper River salmon meal

Executive chef Ethan Stowell cooks up his Copper River salmon meal

The salmon was quickly filleted and given to the chefs who had half-an-hour to whip up a dish. Once completed, a VIP judging panel did the dirty work of “having” to taste the food and pick a winner.

The judges try the different meals to pick the winner

The judges try the different meals to pick the winner

The judges were Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariner Hall of Famer; Alisha Valavanis, Seattle Storm president and general manager; Jim Zorn, Seattle Seahawks quarterback (1976-84); and Betsy Bacon, Alaska Airlines Managing Director Cargo.

The winner of the Copper Chef Cook Off - Ethan Stowell

The winner of the Copper Chef Cook Off – Ethan Stowell

After the tasting, the winner was announced: Ethan Stowell. However, I kind of feel like we were all winners of the event, because none of us left with an empty stomach. We were all able to taste some of the dishes and I have to say, that is a great way to start the day!

If you want to make your own special salmon, you can download the recipes from today via Alaska’s website (pdf).

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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3 Comments

I was just thinking it was that time of the year again. Good eating. I saw an ad for a store here in MN just over the weekend about Salmon season coming soon.

I want to attend this event next year. Make it happen!

JL Johnson

I look forward to these posts every year. While a vegetarian, I make occasional exceptions for fish/seafood, and salmon is my favorite. My only question: Where were the hair nets?!

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