Browsing Tag: Copper River Salmon

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.

A kiss welcomes the first Copper River Salmon to Seattle.

A kiss welcomes the first Copper River Salmon to Seattle – Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter

When my alarm went off early this morning, I was actually excited. On paper, the idea of waking up early and driving 45 minutes south to welcome some fish to Seattle might not sound like something worthwhile. But when Alaska Airlines celebrates the arrival of the first Copper River salmon to Seattle, it is worth getting up and joining in on the celebration.

Alaska Airlines brought over the Salmon-30-Salmon, although the salmon flew on a 737-400 Combi

Alaska Airlines brought over the Salmon-30-Salmon, although the salmon flew on a 737-400 Combi

This year is the fifth year that Alaska has done this special event and each year seems to get a bit more exciting. It is just so… well, unique.

The event takes place in the parking lot of Alaska Air Cargo with a bunch of tents, grills, and seats on a Friday morning. There are invited guests, chefs, some famous people, and media all waiting for a fish to come off a plane.

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.

The Copper River Salmon has arrived to Seattle.

The Copper River Salmon has arrived to Seattle on a Boeing 737-400 Combi.

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.

That is one big fish. Judges, pilots and chefs show off the 55 pound salmon.

That is one big fish. Judges, pilots and chefs show off the 55 pound salmon.

“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.

Cooking salmon in the outdoors early in the morning at an airport -- what more does one need?

Cooking salmon in the outdoors early in the morning at an airport -- what more does one need?

It is not just about welcoming some fish, but also to have an epic Alaska Air Cargo’s “Copper Chef Cook-off.” 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.

The judges have the hard job of eating salmon, drinking wine and making the big decision for the winner.

The judges have the hard job of eating salmon, drinking wine and making the big decision for the winner.

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 enve.

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.

Pat Donahue from Anthony's Restaurant celebrates this victory for the third year in a row.

Pat Donahue from Anthony's Restaurant celebrates this victory for the third year in a row. Former Mariner Jay Buhner hands out the awards.

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.

View all 18 photos from the event this morning or check out all three recipes made this morning.