For the fifth year in a row, the Alaska Seafood Processor Leadership Institute convened in Kodiak to guide seafood plant employees through the business and technical sides of the seafood processing industry.
Its sponsors through the University of Alaska, including the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, bring in professionals to guide the participants in lectures on everything from marketing to waste elimination. Those sessions are meant to build leadership and management skills, expand participants’ knowledge, and give mid-level managers the tools to succeed in their positions.
Local Chef Joel Chenet gives a demonstration of how to prepare fish to a group gathered in the Center’s kitchen. He says, in his experience, people like bones removed.
“And that’s one thing I discovered doing those demonstrations either in supermarkets or different places with people – why people don’t cook fish. You know why? Fish smell. Well, if you do it quickly, you won’t get that smell. If you steam it, you won’t get that smell.”
Chef Joel spoons barbecue sauce made from salmonberries and wild blueberries over two salmon fillets and barbecues them on a flattop grill. As a last touch, he uses a blow torch to caramelize the sauce.
The Leadership Institute training began Monday, and organizers have provided a feast worthy of the fishing industry. Just entering the building, you see bags of salmon jerky on one counter and a separate table with coffee, scones, and other snacks.
And for lunch Chef Joel prepares blackened scallops, barbecued salmon, and king crab legs. Those he cuts length-wise.
This is the last day of the training, and lunch comes after several lectures, including one on equipment different processors use and one from a longtime member of the fishing industry who shares his experiences in Kodiak.
The 23 participants come from all over Alaska and have been tasked with bringing back new skills and ideas to their employers.
Chante Kochuten is based in Anchorage and works as a field office administrator at a community development quota program called the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association.
“I knew that there were gonna be people who were just starting out in the industry, just like me, in processing industries all around Alaska, and it’s really good to network in the industry because as we move forward, the people that I’m meeting today are gonna be ten years down the line holding management positions in these companies.”
Joshua Maricich is a Quality Assurance Manager at Icicle Seafoods in Larsen Bay and says he comes for the change of pace.
“When you’re working during the salmon season, it’s very hands on, and you’re learning on the job – but this was an opportunity to come and speak with industry experts and be able to learn in the classroom. Projects like microbiology. And there are some wonderful academics here are able to teach us things that we can’t learn during the season in the plants.”
He says the program provides a holistic understanding of the industry by choosing instructors with a wide variety of expertise.
The training in Kodiak is just one step in the entire program. Next, participants will choose mentors and work on projects through the winter to then present in March at a leadership meeting in Anchorage. The program culminates in Boston at Seafood Expo North America.