Cargo Marketing News

Alaska Airlines Delivers This Season's First Copper River Salmon

Chef John Howie of Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar wins Copper Chef Cook-Off

May 17, 2013
Army chef with reservists

Second place winner Master Sgt. Robert Shulman, a 31-year U.S. Air Force Reserve chef representing the 446th Airlift Wing (AW) poses with Reservists. Pictured in the front row in civilian clothing is Alaska Airlines' manager of international facilitation Stephanie Cootsona, who also serves in the 446th AW Reserves as a first sergeant.

Alaska Air Cargo delivered the season's first shipment of Copper River salmon today to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The arrival of the coveted Copper River salmon marks the start of the summer salmon season and is anticipated by seafood lovers throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

The Alaska Airlines plane arrived early this morning with Copper River king and sockeye salmon from three seafood processors: Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Trident Seafoods and Copper River Seafoods. At least four more Alaska Airlines flights today will transport salmon from Cordova, Alaska, to Anchorage, Alaska, Seattle and across the United States.

"We're proud to be the first to bring wild and sustainable Copper River salmon to seafood lovers across the country, in many cases within 24 hours after the fish is caught," said Betsy Bacon, managing director of Alaska Air Cargo. "With so much demand for sustainable wild Alaska seafood, airline crews in South-Central and Southeast Alaska will kick into high gear to ship more than 2 million pounds of salmon across our 95-city network."

Copper Chef Cook-off 
Following the arrival of the first fish, three top Seattle chefs competed to create the best salmon recipe in Alaska Air Cargo's annual "Copper Chef Cook-off."

John Howie of Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar took top honors, edging out Master Sgt. Robert Shulman, a 31-year U.S. Air Force Reserve chef representing the 446th Airlift Wing (AW) out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, located in Tacoma, who came in second. Three time winner Pat Donahue, executive chef of Anthony's Restaurants, finished third this year followed by Chris Bryant of Wildfin American Grill.

The chefs had 30 minutes to prepare and serve the first catch of the season to a panel of judges, including Jay Buhner, Seattle Mariners Hall of Famer; Mike Fourtner, deckhand on the F/V Time Bandit, as featured on Discovery Channel's "Deadliest Catch;" Chief Master Sgt. Tony Mack, 446th AW command chief from JBLM; and Jeff Butler, vice president of customer service-airports and cargo.

Jay Buehner and chef

Copper Chef winner John Howie of Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar and Seattle Mariner Jay Buhner.

In a special tribute to the military, 10 citizen airmen from the 446th Air Wing, joined in the morning festivities to cheer on the four chefs and sample the season's first Copper River salmon. Among the other onlookers awaiting the freighter's arrival were five Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan MVP Gold members.

These frequent fliers donated 500,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles to Fisher House Foundation's Hero Miles program to attend the event. Hero Miles turns donated frequent-flier miles into free airfare for wounded, injured and ill service members and/or their families who are undergoing treatment at a military or VA medical center and for other authorized events. Through Alaska Airlines' partnership with Fisher House, the nonprofit that administers the program, nearly 6 million miles were donated last year to assist U.S. service members injured and wounded in service to their country.

"The Copper Chef Cook-off helps to showcase the proud relationship the Air Force Reserves has with Alaska Airlines and hundreds of other employers and industry leaders here in Washington State," said Chief Master Sgt. Tony Mack, 446th Airlift Wing command chief from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. "Chef is only one of hundreds of vocations in the Air Force Reserve, and allowing one of our finest to compete is a testament to the relationships we have within the community."

Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier Horizon Air employ dozens of Reservists who serve as pilots, aircraft maintenance technicians as well as other air and ground crew. An estimated 10 percent of current Alaska and Horizon employees either still serve in the military or have veteran status.

The recipes that were prepared for the Copper Chef Cook-off are available to download here.   Fish lovers are encouraged to share their own favorite salmon recipes on Twitter, using the hashtag #SalmonChef.

Enhanced seafood quality training program 
Copper River salmon shipped on Alaska Air Cargo this season will arrive as fresh as possible to grocery stores and restaurants across the nation, thanks in part to a cool chain training program required of all airline employees who handle perishables. Alaska Air Cargo employees are required to adhere to strict seafood quality standards and pass an annual food quality course.

Seafood processors and shippers follow these cool-chain standards to provide a temperature-controlled environment for proper food handling. The goal is to keep seafood moving rapidly throughout its journey on Alaska Airlines and maintain a consistent temperature range from the time it leaves the water to when it arrives at stores and restaurants.

Alaska Airlines plays a significant role in supporting the Alaska seafood industry, which is recognized worldwide for its sustainable fishing practices. The carrier flew nearly 19 million pounds of fresh Alaska seafood to the Lower 48 states and beyond last year, including nearly 1 million pounds of Copper River salmon.

The carrier transports more than 113 million pounds of cargo annually, including seafood, mail and freight, and operates the most extensive air cargo operation on the U.S. West Coast of any passenger airline.