Our setting: The Catch in Anaheim. Judges included Marche Moderne's Florent Marneau. And the lone Orange County competitor was Napa Rose's Andrew Sutton. We assisted with judging duties at this special event, focusing on craft raised, Skuna Bay salmon.
Skuna Bay is located along Vancouver Island, where waters are glacier-fed and the fish used in their feed are from sustainably certified fisheries. The fish are always 10 pounds in weight, packed in recyclable corrugated cardboard packaging.
Chefs were clocked on their filleting skills, preparation and presentation of an original recipe. Other competitors included Chris George of Roy's Pasadena, Kenneth Fazel of Tender in Las Vegas, Christopher Eddy from (the closed, but coming to LAX) Campanile Restaurant and Eugenio Martignago of West in Carlsbad. The winner would advance to a semi-final round in Los Angeles, where a West Coast representative is selected. They will then travel to Louisville for the final round, to be held during the Kentucky Derby. At stake: a feature in Saveur Magazine and bragging rights.
We promised ourselves to be as unbiased as possible when scoring, tasting some pretty impressive dishes of seafood. A couple of chefs plated too many components, while one entree did not look appetizing enough. For the winner, their salmon had to be impeccable from start to finish, as scoring included points for pin boning as well as filet portion size. Florent was one of two chef judges ensuring consistent scoring in that area.
In the end, it was no contest. Sutton's entry was the last to appear at our table, but the most memorable to the judges. His intention to showcase the different flavors and textures of Skuna Bay salmon manifested in a trio of tastes, including a sashimi and escabeche. This Forker was pleased with how chef incorporated enough heat (spice, not temperature) to enhance the flavor of his dish. For a man who doesn't do culinary competitions, he knocked this one out of the ballpark. Congratulations chef! Now continue the winning streak all the way to the Derby.
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For more information on Skuna Bay salmon, check out their website at www.skunasalmon.com.