From: Top Chef
Earlier this winter, the popular TV show Top Chef filmed their 10th episode in Juneau, Alaska and featured salmon among other seafood. Maybe I should just speak for myself, but I’ll bet most Alaskan fishermen felt an overwhelming sense of pride when our lovely seafood was featured for the show’s almost 2 million viewers in more than 10 countries. I know I did.
The spectacle of reality TV (and TV in general) can be distasteful, but I was excited to see the recipes the contestants (called rather stupidly “cheftestants”) would come up with. All were heavy handed but some good ideas for cooking salmon came to my attention. The contestant Sheldon came up with a smoked salmon & pea soup (with green tea & chive sourdough bread on the side) that fell flat with every last one of the judges. The host, Padma’s culinary pedigree (Playboy cover, modeling, unmemorable movies and TV and a few cookbooks) doesn’t hold a lot of water for me but her word is life and death to the contestants, and she didn’t like this one. Sheldon took a lot of flak for using chum salmon (also called dog salmon or keta) but I applauded. Keta is just one of the five species of wild salmon found in Alaskan, all of which are amazing in their own right, and keta is no exception. The only mark against keta in my book? It lacks the amazing color of sockeye, but all salmon pales in comparison (pun intended) to the color of sockeye. The next contestant, Josh, whipped up a roasted garlic sourdough soup with sockeye salmon & black olive croutons and the judges received it well enough. Lizzie put out a citrus & beet glazed salmon slider with poppy seed butter & pickles (I want to try this one with some tweaks!) while Brooke, who went on to win the bout, crafted a sockeye salmon & seafood broth with mustard seed caviar and dill sourdough bread on the side.
For the most part I was underwhelmed by the cooking and overwhelmed by the phony drama. But I am thankful for the episode and the respect they tried to show the land and seafood. I did gleaned some tips from their culinary flailing that I will incorporate into my own cooking at some point. The show does reach the masses though and promoting Alaskan salmon (and not just salmon salmon, ie farmed salmon) is a boon to the environment, us fishermen and the health of salmon eaters worldwide.