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Minneapolis Chef Wins $1000 with Lake Superior Fish

Earlier this month, John Occhiato, executive chef of Cosmos in Minneapolis, Minn., became the 2012 Grand Champion of A Salute to Lake Superior's Sustainable Fisheries, a professional chef competition and public tasting event. He did this with "Roasted Superior Herring, Smoked Herring, Fennel, Salsify." Enough people asked for the entrée after the event that Occhiato introduced it to the Cosmos menu for the first time ever.

Roasted Superior Herring, Smoked Herring, Fennel, Salsify by John Occhiato

"What I really like about lake herring," said Occhiato, "is that it's exciting for me to work with. It's mild but rich. It's dynamic in terms of what you can do with it. I like that it's locally caught but that it pairs beautifully with international flavors."

Scott Graden, executive chef of the New Scenic Café in Duluth, Minn., also fared well at the competition. Graden cooked a dish he called "Sea Grant Lake Herring" to earn the Superior Award along with its $750 purse. Additionally, Graden earned the popular vote, The People's Choice Award.

Sea Grant Lake Herring by Scott Graden

"Every once in awhile instead of reading or hearing about something in the media," said Graden, "you get to experience it. A Salute to Lake Superior's Sustainable Fisheries was experiential. It brought a global issue - sustainable food - into perspective through an encounter with culinarians and their art. What I especially like about lake herring is that they are more than fish to me, they are a link to people, to Lake Superior, to ecology and to political will."

At the Salute, over 200 people sampled up to ten surprisingly unique versions of lake herring.

"I wasn't expecting such a variety of flavors and preparations," said Elaine Krueger an event attendee from Pine City. "This event made it clear that eating fish can be exciting ... a culinary adventure. I'm inspired to try some new ways to serve fish at home."

Other winners of the night included Fire Lake Grill House's new executive chef Jim Kyndberg, who earned an Award of Excellence from the professional judges. Avery Cassar from At Sara's Table/Chester Creek Café won an honorable mention from the people attending the event.

A Salute to Lake Superior's Sustainable Fisheries focused on lake herring, a fish that is sustainably harvested from Lake Superior. "Lake herring is caught in this region and it is high in omega 3 fatty acids," said Jeff Gunderson, director of the University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program, which hosted the competition and public event. "It's a delicate white fish from the trout family and it is sustainably managed in Minnesota. Sea Grant views this event as a good way to reintroduce chefs and the public to a fish that slipped off the radar for a few decades. Through this event, we're celebrating a recovering lake herring population, Minnesota's history and it's future."

A Salute to Lake Superior's Sustainable Fisheries was sponsored by Dockside Fish Market, Mpls. St. Paul Magazine, and the Minnesota Zoo's Fish Smart Program. To see the lake herring winning recipes, go to: www.seagrant.umn.edu/fisheries/fishrecipes.

Posted on November 27, 2012

This page last modified on November 27, 2012     © 1996 – 2020 Regents of the University of Minnesota     The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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