Sitka Local Food Network – Charles Bingham
Sitka, Alaska (KINY) – One group of winners uses parts of fish that normally go to waste to create fish broth, while the other winner has a Japanese-Hawaiian pop-up restaurant with an Alaskan twist.
According to a press release, Lexi Fish-Hackett, Edith Johnson and Gretchen Stelzenmuller are the winners of $1,500 each in the fifth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation competition.
“We are pleased to encourage more businesses to enter the local food system with our competition,” said Charles Bingham, chairman of the board of directors of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the competition. “Even though we had other entries, our judges were unanimous in picking these two standouts. We really liked the fish broth activity, as it cuts down on wasted portions of fish. Enoki Eatery brings new flavors to Sitka , and the smoked salmon musubi is really tasty. The mission of the Sitka Local Foods Network is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced food in the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope that our awards will continue to encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka.
The fish broth business is still in the works, but the two women behind it have deep roots in Sitka’s food system. Edith Johnson owns Our Town Catering and served as a chef at a few Sitka hotels before opening her own catering business, while Lexi Fish-Hackett is co-owner of Fish and Family Seafoods and studied nutrition at university.
“Our food business idea is to create a fish stock product and bring it to market. Broth is a kitchen staple and can be used in many types of cuisines. Plus, we both love soup. Who doesn’t? said Edith and Lexi. “There are so many benefits in fish bones, which are not fully utilized at a commercial level, and we want to take advantage of that.”
In their entry form, Edith wrote: “Lexi approached me with an idea she’s had for years, the idea of using fish ‘trash’ – heads, bones and the meat left on the bones – to make a very sustainable product, but also helps to utilize the fish pieces that are thrown away Every year in Sitka alone thousands of fish carcasses are dumped in the ocean or disposed of We would use them for make a broth of fish bones.
Edith and Lexi plan to make three types of fish stock. The first type is a clear, versatile bone broth using salmon bones and meat. The second type is smoked salmon broth, which uses fish heads smoked by Catch Sitka Seafoods, and produces a richer, more flavorful concentrated broth, suitable for soups with heavy creams or milk. The third type is a Sitka-style fumet, which is a rich, upscale French broth with leeks, garlic, white wine, and lightly poached halibut. A fumet is intended for high-end fish sauces for delicate broths.
“We are so excited to be working on creating a pantry essential from our local waters in Southeast Alaska,” said Lexi and Edith. “Another goal is to help improve food security in Alaska by focusing sales in our region and state, at least to begin with. We want to create a product that is convenient, nutritious, and people love!”
Gretchen Stelzenmuller grew up in Sitka but spent time in Hawaii before moving back to Sitka. She worked in kitchens along the way. She launched Enoki Eatery a few months ago and had pop-up restaurants at Harbor Mountain Brewing and Backdoor Cafe. She was using the kitchen at Sitka Fine Arts Camp for her pop-up kitchen, but will be looking for another kitchen to use this summer. She hopes to have a bike food cart for special events, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, and use pop-up locations at other times. Eventually, she hopes to find a more permanent location.
“Enoki Eatery was born out of my love of making food that is as beautiful as it is delicious, sustainable as it is convenient,” Gretchen wrote on her entry form. “Enoki Eatery combines unique Southeast Alaskan flavors and ingredients with the style and inspiration of Japanese street food. We specialize in musubi, a Hawaiian/Japanese snack consisting of sticky rice, togarashi seasoning (mostly sesame and seaweed) topped with protein, such as smoked salmon, chicken, or mushrooms wrapped in garlic leaves. nori seaweed, for easy feeding and extra nutrients. “
“It’s most often served with spam, and while I serve it that way, I try to use healthier, more sustainable ingredients that reflect Alaskan culture. Our other menu items include pork katsu sandwich, soba noodles with black garlic sauce, kimchi rice bowls, mochi cupcakes and much more. It changes with the seasons. I focus on high quality ingredients, simple menus and clever presentations.
Sustainability is a concern for Gretchen, and she knows it can create an expensive business model in Sitka. She wants to use local ingredients because it supports local growers and pickers. “It not only helps our economy, but also reduces my impact on the environment through the use of barges and air freight,” she said.
“Winnings from the Sitka Local Food Network will allow me to stay sustainable by funding biodegradable packaging for my takeout-only food cart. Staying dedicated to creating less waste will be expensive and a step in the right direction. Sitka is already doing facing growing issues with shipping waste off the island. As a new business, we aim to be part of the solution by being aware of our impact. I buy biodegradable packaging specifically to know no matter where they end up in the waste stream, they will not have a negative impact on our environment,” she concluded.