Alaska restaurant battles Seattle for first fish

ANCHORAGE — An Anchorage seafood restaurant heralded its grand opening Friday by mimicking Alaska Airlines' splashy salmon show in Seattle.

 

The Seattle-based airline makes a big production each year of delivering the first-of-the-season Copper River king salmon from Alaska to Seattle for preparation by top chefs, who got their celebrated bounty earlier Friday.

Hours later, an Anchorage-based seafood processor delivered a 30-pound king and a seven-pound sockeye salmon with much fanfare at The Bridge Seafood Restaurant, which was set for its grand opening later in the day.

"The Copper River's first king of the year," proclaimed delivery van driver Billy Green, vice president of production for Copper River Seafoods, as he presented a large box before restaurant owners Patrick Hoogerhyde and Al Levinson, who are both chefs. Out came the prized catch from the shaved ice as cameras clicked all around in front of the downtown area restaurant, which sits on an old bridge over an urban salmon stream.

Hoogerhyde held the king up.

"Gorgeous," he said. "Gorgeous, my friend."

The flashy delivery was a re-enactment of sorts of the famous king toss at Pike's Market in Seattle.

Hoogerhyde was quick to admit feeling a bit of rivalry with Seattle for first fish.

"The thing is, it's our fish, OK?" he said as he waited for the salmon to arrive. "I'm an Alaskan. That's the way it is. And for Seattle to get the first one, yeah, that's a little pinch now and then."

After bringing the salmon inside the restaurant, Hoogerhyde said the fish would be cut up into nice steaks and fillets.

Hoogerhyde then asked if anyone knew if the fish had first reached Seattle. Someone said yes.

"Oh, those (bleeps)!" he said.

Even as chefs compete for first fish, wild salmon lovers everywhere will be heartened to know the Copper River fishing season opened late Thursday near Cordova, Alaska.

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