Juneau chefs win national seafood cookoff

Release Date: 
Sunday, August 9, 2015

Juneau’s Beau Schooler and Travis Hotch on Saturday were crowned kings at the Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans. Schooler, co-owner of The Rookery Café, has won a slew of recent accolades for his innovative cooking. Travis Hotch is the evening sous chef at The Rookery. They’re the first Alaskans to win the award.

Schooler and Hotch were the final participants to present their food. The dish they chose was brined and cedar roasted sockeye filet, salmon chorizo made of belly meat, crispy salmon collar and crispy skin chips, topped with salt made of boiled, dehydrated and ground salmon bones.

“I brought kind of a nose to tail wild Alaskan sockeye salmon,” Schooler told the judges.

“We just wanted to bring what was running best at the time, and then Alaska isn’t really known for produce, so we’re just highlighting the fish — fish upon fish upon fish.”

Apparently, though a commentator talked about the potential “risk” of a dish composed exclusively of salmon — some competitors incorporated corn, some potatoes — the judges agreed.

“I think it was really confident … it was just fish, but it was a lot of different flavors there, a lot of different preparation there,” one of them said as he ate.

“It’s a testament to the quality of the hard work of everybody involved, from the fishermen making the product that they used, to the two of them knowing the product so well,” said Rookery Café owner Travis Smith.

Almost everything in the dish was something the team has been working on throughout the years and serves at the café on a regular basis, Schooler said.

“We weren’t trying to do anything much different from what we do at the restaurant every day,” Schooler said. “We do so much seafood, and we’re pretty well known for it. Keep it simple.”

Gov. Bill Walker nominated Schooler for the contest.

The team got their fish from Taku River Reds, a local family-owned fishing business.

“I’m glad that we could win it for Alaska and bring home the crown,” Schooler said.

• Contact Juneau Empire outdoors writer Mary Catharine Martin atmaryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

Read an article about Schooler’s nomination here: http://juneauempire.com/local/2015-06-03/local-chef-represent-alaska-nat....

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