Kodiak’s annual Crab Festival kicked off today, bringing with it all the long-time traditions that will occur throughout this weekend. However, as KMXT’s student news intern Marina Cummiskey discovered, a new event is coming to Kodiak this year.
Consider it a cutthroat culinary competition – an edible duel, if you will. Joining the long list of crab fest activities and entertainment is a “chef-off.”
Michelle Lebeau runs her own consulting business and is working with the Alaska Marine Conservation Council to put on a sustainable seafood “throwdown.” According to her, the event is modeled after a popular cooking show on the Food Network called Iron Chef. In the show, two chefs go head-to-head to cook a dish containing a secret ingredient, which they do not know the identity of until the event begins. Lebeau says that this year’s secret ingredient will be some kind of locally-caught seafood.
“They have one hour to cook, prepare, and plate their dishes using the seafood as the primary ingredient for a panel of local judges who will then judge the seafood dishes.”
The chefs competing in the event this year are Chef Laura Cole of the restaurant 229 Parks in Denali, and local Chef Joel Chenet, owner of Mill Bay Coffee and Bakery. Chenet says he has participated in events like this in the past, the most recent competition occurring four years ago in Monterey, California. Chenet’s past experience will help him, but as far as preparation for this throwdown goes, he can do nothing.
“When I did it in Monterey in California, we had black cod, and I did three different dishes of black cod, this time I have no idea what they’re going to give us.”
“So, you know, it’s like some mystery basket, we don’t know what the ingredients are, and we have one hour to do five servings, and we’ll go from scratch, and go as fast as we can to make it.”
While the chef off event is new in Kodiak, the Alaska Marine Conservation Council has put on similar throwdowns in the past. Lebeau said if this weekend’s event is well recieved there is hope for another competition in Kodiak next year.
“This is the first time we’re doing this type of event at crab fest; there have been previous seafood throwdown competitions that Alaska Marine Conservation Council has done in partnership with other organizations in Anchorage, and the sustainable seafood throwdown model is something that is quite popular on the East Coast. Hopefully, if it goes well, I think we would be interested in doing it again next year. ”
Judging the competing are Senator Gary Stevens, local fisherman Terry Haines, and pediatric dietitian Heather Preece.
The winner of the throwdown will go on to compete in the Great Alaska Seafood Cookoff in Anchorage in September. The Sustainable Seafood Throwdown will be held on the mainstage of the Midway Saturday from 2 until 4 p.m.