Ernie Pruett prepares a meal at the Riverside House on Monday afternoon. Pruett, also known as Chef Ernie, prepared the food for the One Year Out Celebration and Auction, a fund-raiser for the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.
Photo by Mark Quiner
Chef Ernie has cooked with salmon before. However, Saturday was the first time he had ever used Kenai Wild brand salmon in his dishes.
Ernie Pruett, also known as Chef Ernie at the Riverside House, where he is the chef, prepared Kenai Wild salmon at Saturday's One Year Out Celebration and Auction fund-raiser marking the official one-year count down to the 2006 Arctic Winter Games.
The event opened up a new door in his culinary endeavors: he is hoping to replace the king salmon he serves at the restaurant with Kenai Wild salmon, he said.
"It was beautiful," he said.
Pruett said the salmon was so good he let the flavor speak for itself. He cooked oven-baked salmon meniere with white wine, lemon and butter topped with homemade hollandaise sauce.
"We don't use packages of anything around here," he said.
Leonor Fraser, a coordinator of the event, said when planning it, it was critical to find a caterer who could move 260 people from a reception to a sit-down dinner.
"We really had to be on schedule," she said.
She said she was amazed at the beauty and skill Ernie and his staff presented the Alaska salmon and oysters. The food was outstanding and nobody had to wait, she said.
"It was fit for a king," Fraser said. "I felt like a queen."
During the evening Pruett received a standing ovation from the crowd, Fraser said.
Pruett's culinary legacy began when he was a child in Tenino, Wash. His childhood was spent fishing for salmon and trout in the Skookumchuck River.
Using his catch and the fruits of his parents' labor on their dairy farm, he developed a love of cooking that grew into a lifelong passion and career.
"I just loved to cook," he said. "I just loved it my whole life."
Ernie's family literally ate off of their farm, said his wife, Laura Pruett.
When he started a chef career, he spent 11 years studying under some West Coast chef's affiliated with the BBC Corp., a pool of entrepreneur chefs who owned fine dining restaurants in parts of western Washington.
However, Laura Pruett, who is from Alaska, started getting homesick. And Ernie said he loves it here. They packed their bags and moved to the Kenai Peninsula two years ago. Now, while he is concocting white wine sauces and chicken cordon bleau in the kitchen, Laura manages the restaurant.
The entire Pruett family is proud of Ernie, Laura said.
"He's just so good at what he does," she said.
His son, Eric, works as a saute cook at the Riverside House, and his daughter Megan, is his biggest fan, Laura said. Although, she is not much of a carrot eater, said her mother.
When Pruett started working at the Riverside, he revamped the entire menu giving the restaurant a French-American theme, he said. Some new favorites are the French pepper steak and the sweet carrots, he said.
Chef Ernie's passion for cooking does not mean he dominates the kitchen at home. Laura said she usually handles family dinners filling the table with macaroni and cheese and other family classics.
"He cooks differently," she said. "He is a French cook and it's expensive."
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