Restaurant battles to win first fish

Alaska Airlines Capt. Trent Davey, right, and first officer Andy Kullick hold up the 55-pound Copper River King Salmon that they delivered to Seattle from Alaska as the annual first air shipment of the fish prized for its high oil content and flavor. Enlarge photo

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

Alaska Airlines Capt. Trent Davey, right, and first officer Andy Kullick hold up the 55-pound Copper River King Salmon that they delivered to Seattle from Alaska as the annual first air shipment of the fish prized for its high oil content and flavor.

An Anchorage seafood restaurant heralded its grand opening Friday by mimicking Alaska Airlines’ splashy salmon show in Seattle.

The Seattle-based airline makes a big production each year of delivering the first-of-the-season Copper River king salmon from Alaska to Seattle for preparation by top chefs, who got their celebrated bounty earlier Friday.

Hours later, an Anchorage-based seafood processor delivered a 30-pound king and a 7-pound sockeye salmon with much fanfare at The Bridge Seafood Restaurant, which was set for its grand opening later in the day.

“The Copper River’s first king of the year,” said delivery van driver Billy Green, vice president of productions for Copper River Seafoods, as he presented a large box before restaurant owners Patrick Hoogerhyde and Al Levinson, who are both chefs. Out came the prized catch from the shaved ice as cameras clicked all around in front of the downtown restaurant, which sits on an old bridge over an urban salmon stream.

Hoogerhyde held the king up.

“Gorgeous,” he said. “Gorgeous, my friend.”

The flashy delivery was a re-enactment of sorts of the famous king toss at Pike’s Market in Seattle.

Hoogerhyde was quick to admit feeling a bit of rivalry with Seattle for the first fish.

“The thing is, it’s our fish, OK?” he said as he waited for the salmon to arrive. “I’m Alaskan. That’s the way it is. And for Seattle to get the first one, yeah, that’s a little pinch now and then.”

After bringing the salmon inside the restaurant, Hoogerhyde said the fish would be cut up into steaks and fillets.

Hoogerhyde then asked if anyone knew if the fish had first reached Seattle. Someone said yes.

“Oh, those (bleeps)!” he said.

Even as chefs compete for first fish, wild-salmon lovers everywhere will be heartened to know the Copper River fishing season opened late Thursday near Cordova, Alaska.