Celebrity chef touts Alaska seafood

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2008

The bounty of Alaska's waters has drawn culinary prospectors for decades and most recently has attracted one of America's top celebrity chefs.

Courtesy Of Stewart, Tabori And Chang Publishers
Courtesy Of Stewart, Tabori And Chang Publishers

Food Network's popular personality Alton Brown of "Good Eats" fame recently spent a week in Southeast Alaska writing, directing and starring in a five-minute video on sustainability for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute. Brown said he was in Juneau to try to educate the outside world about Alaska seafood and what it takes to sustain its world-class fisheries.

"I have kind of gone on a mission," he said. "I've been on the Food Network for nine years and have spent a lot of time teaching people how to cook, but I feel kind of guilty that I haven't spent very much time teaching them what to cook."

Brown said he has gotten on his "sustainable soap box" to help people understand where they are in the food chain and the food cycles humans now exist in.

"Every time you put something in your mouth or go to the grocery store and spend a dollar you're kind of voting in a way for the things that you believe in and the things you want to support, and I want people to be aware of that."

According to the institute's Web site, sustainability "means fisheries can exist long-term without compromising the surrounding ecosystem." Brown said he plans to complete the video at his home base in Atlanta, Ga. and that it should be posted on the Internet at www.alaskaseafood.org in approximately a month.

Brown earned notoriety with his television show "Good Eats," a humorous and unconventional food program that has found a sort of cult-like following. He is also known for his miniseries "Feasting on Asphalt" and as the commentator on the "Iron Chef America."

Brown said the five-minute video will not have the same "gimmicky" feel that "Good Eats" is known for, but hopes to let the sustainability story and Alaska shine through in the project.

"I think it's more important for it to have its own energy," he said. "Maybe some of that sensibility will be there, but there's a lot of message to get across in five minutes so the mission was a little altered because of that."

The recent visit to Juneau and Sitka was Brown's first sojourn to Alaska.

"You know what, I really regret that now because this place rocks," he said. "It's just so amazing."

Brown said the trip has inspired him to return to the Last Frontier in the near future and he intends to include more Alaska food into "Good Eats" in the future, including a show on halibut and another on crab. He said he has plenty of access to salmon and halibut in Georgia, but finding his favorite Alaska fish - sablefish - can be very difficult.

"One of the things I was hoping to get out of this trip is enough connections where I can get it shipped to me," Brown said. "To me, smoked sablefish - there is nothing better."

Brown said he hopes to spread the word on the quality of Alaska's seafood industry.

"Salmon and halibut are great, but man, there sure is a lot of other stuff coming out of the water here that is superlative," he said. "I hope that at least some of my efforts can be spent opening peoples eyes to the versatility and the variety and the quality of what is coming out of the water here because it really is spectacular."

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.

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