Originally from Toronto, Canada, Evelene Spencer immigrated to the United States at the age of 20 when she married her husband, Joseph, in Oregon in 1888. When the United States Bureau of Fisheries came knocking on her door for help putting seafood on the popularity map, she was a restaurant manager in Portland with two young daughters.
Back then, Americans didn’t know how to cook fish. Evelene was tasked with traveling the country and giving live cooking demonstrations to teach Americans the basics and spark greater interest in fish. You could say she was pop culture’s original culinary celebrity long before there was cable TV and devout fans.
Evelene served as an outreach specialist for the United States Bureau of Fisheries for seven years and earned the respect and recognition of many in the United States and Canada, later crowned with the nickname “Fish Evangelist” (via U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service). While many might not be able to pick a photo of Evelene from a lineup today, she became the face of the fish back then. She left a lasting legacy of popular dishes and methods that most are unaware can be attributed to her.