The first Copper River salmon comes of the Alaska Airlines 737 Combi. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AirlineReporter.com

The first Copper River salmon comes of the Alaska Airlines 737 Combi. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AirlineReporter.com

I love my sleep and it takes quite a bit to get me up before the sun. The first Copper River Salmon brought in by Alaska Air Cargo is good enough reason as any.

This early morning event, which just wrapped up, has become a yearly tradition that started in 2010. Luckily in previous years there was no rain, but this year we were not so lucky.  But being at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, rain can never stop an event like this.

The Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 Combi arrived with 24,000 pounds of Copper River salmon to an eager group. One lucky (or unlucky) fish was chosen to be filleted and cooked up in a competition between multiple chefs.

Filleting the fish at SEA. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AIrlineReporter.com

Filleting the fish at SEA. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AIrlineReporter.com

Pat Donahue, executive chef of Anthony’s Restaurants and the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Copper Chef winner, competed against executive chefs John Howie of Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar, Chris Bryant of Wildfin American Grill and also Master Sgt. Robert Shulman, a 31-year U.S. Air Force Reserve chef representing the 446th Airlift Wing (AW) out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, located in Tacoma, WA.

Among the guests were 10 citizen airmen from the 446th AW and elite Alaska Airlines customers who donated 75,000 miles to the Fisher House Foundation’s Hero Miles Program. The programs takes those donated miles and allows wounded, injured and ill service members and/or their families who are undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center to travel.

Cooking up Copper River Salmon is an important task. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AirlineReporter.com.

Cooking up Copper River Salmon is an important task. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AirlineReporter.com.

After the salmon was filleted, the chefs were given 30 minutes to prepare and serve their selected dishes. During the cooking process, local celebrity, John Curley provided comic relief while MCing the event.

Once the chef’s time was up, a panel of judges made their decisions. The lucky tasters were Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariners Hall of Famer; Mike Fourtner, deckhand on the F/V Time Bandit, as featured on Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch;” Chief Master Sgt. Tony Mack, 446th AW command chief from JBLM; and Jeff Butler, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of customer service-airports and cargo. The dish they chose was Applewood Grilled Wild Copper River King Salmon with Pesto Mashed Potatoes, Beurre Rouge and Butter Poached Morels prepared by Chef John Howie. [see all the recipes here]

Of course the best part of the event is trying the salmon for myself, which I had no problem doing. The first year, it seemed very odd to eat salmon so early in the morning, but I have come to look forward to it.

Judging great food is a hard job, but someone has to do it. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AirlineReporter.com.

Judging great food is a hard job, but someone has to do it. Photo by Shannon Leigh Kehoe / AirlineReporter.com.

Although the event is quite fun; seafood is serious business. Each year, Alaska Airlines transports nearly 19 million pounds of Alaska seafood.

“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 Betsy Bacon, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo. “With so much demand for sustainable wild Alaska seafood, airline crews in South-Central and Southeast Alaska will kick into high gear to ship more than 2 million pounds of salmon across our 95-city network.”

CHECK OUT PREVIOUS COPPER RIVER SALMON EVENTS: 2012, 2011and 2010 AND MORE EVENT PHOTOS ON FLICKR.

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This story written by… David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder.

David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.

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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: [email protected]

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