Chef dishes local foods at Sitka school

In this Monday Feb. 25, 2013 photo Anchorage, Alaska, chef Rob Kinneen, center, works with Pacific High School students Nikia Valley, left, and Raven Natkong, right, to prepare a gourmet lunch of pinboned baked coho with fresh salsa and beach asparagus in Sitka, Alaska. (AP Photo/Daily Sitka Sentinel, James Poulson)

SITKA — While many focus on Alaska’s food source challenges, Anchorage chef Rob Kinneen capitalizes on the strengths.

“We should be working on where we are,” said Kinneen, who was in Sitka this week. “We’re unique, we’re who we are. We need to think about producing our own microgoods.”

Kinneen is the founder of Fresh49, a company that raises awareness on the benefits to Alaskans of using local foods, and where to find them. During his week in Sitka, he gave a talk at last month’s Food Film Festival, conducted food demonstrations at schools and for the public and joined two Pacific High School students to prepare a lunch for 20.

Kinneen’s visit here was sponsored by the SEARHC health promotion department and Sitka Conservation Society. The two organizations coordinated Kinneen’s demonstrations at Pacific High, Mt. Edgecumbe High School, the Senior Center, Grace Harbor Church and Sitka High.

Renae Mathson, SEARHC health educator, said Kinneen showed those who attended the workshops and demonstrations how to make traditional foods “more palatable to people who have not been eating local foods.” She said the chef not only showed the best ways to prepare these foods, but also focused on the health and cultural benefits.

“So many people don’t know how to prepare traditional foods,” Mathson said. She added that if more people ate traditional foods, they could reduce chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, and also promote good health and general wellness.

“That’s an Alaska issue, not just an Alaska Native issue,” said Kinneen, who is Tlingit. He was raised in Petersburg and Anchorage, and now lives in Anchorage. He studied culinary arts during high school before going on to graduate from one of the top culinary schools, the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, N.Y.

After graduation from culinary school, he worked at celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse’s second restaurant in New Orleans, and in the North Carolina “triangle” area, before returning to Alaska. During his time away from his home state he watched the “farm to schools” movement take hold.

Kinneen, now 38, said he was struck by the proportion of food from out-of-state that is consumed in Alaska — about 96 percent — and the paucity of local foods in commercial and home cooking.

“If you think about how wrong that is ...” he said. “What would happen if we had a natural disaster, and couldn’t get food in? It would be devastating to a lot of the state. At the end of the day, there are a lot of issues.”

Kinneen wants to see the situation change, and for people to start using more of what is available outside their doors.

“I figured it was time to stand up and take a look at it from a different perspective ... or leave the state,” he said.

Kinneen makes his living as a chef in various Anchorage restaurants and through local foods contract work, which is his passion. He said he may be hired to put on a 500-plate local foods dinner for a health organization, or serve as a visiting demonstration chef in communities around the state, like Sitka. About four years ago, he was the guest chef for the Sitka Seafood Festival, and has been back twice since then to work the popular local event.

On his visit to Sitka over the past week, he worked with two kids at Pacific High School to prepare a dish of locally donated coho salmon, brown rice and black bean salsa, garnished with beach asparagus. They prepared plates for 30, and it was polished off by the 20 students who came to lunch.

“That was pretty fun,” Kinneen said.

At Mt. Edgecumbe High School he conducted a demonstration, and worked with the kids to make a meal of salmon rolls with black seaweed, goosetongue, beach asparagus and seal oil.

Along the way, Kinneen has been passing on the word about the importance of local foods in the economy. He also applauds the work of companies that are able to capitalize on local ingredients to create premium products. He cited Alaska Pure Sea Salt Co. of Sitka as one such company.

“We have all the ingredients to be a topnotch culinary destination,” he said.

More

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 10:06

Fairbanks man accused of setting occupied vehicle on fire

FAIRBANKS — Alaska State Troopers say they have arrested a Fairbanks man suspected of setting a vehicle on fire while people were inside the car.

Read more
Mon, 02/27/2017 - 10:04

Snow closes Steese Highway; road impassible at summits

FAIRBANKS — Heavy snow has closed an interior Alaska Highway.

Read more
Mon, 02/27/2017 - 10:02

Biologists begin moose count pilot study in Anchorage

ACNHORAGE — Alaska wildlife officials have begun a study to learn more about Anchorage’s urban moose population and the most efficient way to count the animals in the metropolitan area.

Read more
Mon, 02/27/2017 - 09:58

Officials readying for Eielson F-35s to spur housing crunch

FAIRBANKS — Officials in Alaska are preparing for a possible housing crunch in 2020 that is expected to coincide with an influx of service members tied to the two new F-35 squadrons coming to Eielson Air Force Base.

Read more
 

CONTACT US

  • Switchboard: 907-586-3740
  • Circulation and Delivery: 907-586-3740
  • Newsroom Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Business Fax: 907-586-9097
  • Accounts Receivable: 907-523-2230
  • View the Staff Directory
  • or Send feedback

ADVERTISING

SUBSCRIBER SERVICES

SOCIAL NETWORKING