Sitka Local Foods Network Honors Innovation

Apr 28, 2022 | Fisheries, News, Small Business


Hawaiian-Japanese fusion cuisine with wild Alaska salmon earned a prize for Enoki Eatery.

Sitka Local Foods Network

Putting seafood to new uses earned recognition and cash prizes at the 5th annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

Salmon Snacks and Bone Broth

The Sitka Local Foods Network chose two winners to each receive the $1,500 top prize. One is a pop-up restaurant serving Japanese-Hawaiian fusion that replaces Spam with wild Alaska salmon. The other salvages fish cut-offs to make a rich broth.

“We are happy to encourage more businesses to get into the local food system with our contest,” says Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network. “Even though we had other entries, our judges were unanimous in picking these two standouts.”

Gretchen Stelzenmuller’s Enoki Eatery invented a smoked salmon musubi. She describes it as “a Hawaiian/Japanese snack food of sticky rice [and] togarashi seasoning (mainly sesames and seaweed) topped with protein, such as smoked salmon, chicken, or mushroom wrapped in sheets of nori seaweed for easy eating and extra nutrients.” Stelzenmuller does serve a Hawaiian-style Spam version, but she adds, “I am trying to use healthier and more sustainable ingredients that reflect Alaskan culture.”

The fish broth is the invention of Edith Johnson, owner of Sitka’s Our Town Catering, and Lexi Fish-Hackett, who catches sablefish and salmon from her family’s F/V Myriad. In their entry form, Johnson wrote, “Lexi approached me with an idea that she has had for years, the thought of using fish ‘waste’—heads, bones, and the meat left on the bones—to make a product that is very sustainable but also helps use fish parts that are thrown away. Every year in Sitka alone, thousands of fish carcasses are tossed into the ocean or disposed of. We would use these to make a fish bone broth.” The result is three products: a clear bone broth, a heavier broth made from smoked salmon heads, and a fumet made with halibut, garlic, leeks, and white wine.

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“The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods into the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope our prizes continue to encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka,” Bingham says.

Stelzenmuller shares that goal. “Enoki Eatery was born from my love of making food as beautiful as it is delicious, sustainable as it is convenient,” she wrote on her entry form.

Stelzenmuller grew up in Sitka and spent time living in Hawaii and worked in kitchens along the way. She started Enoki Eatery a few months ago and had pop-up restaurants at Harbor Mountain Brewing and the Backdoor Cafe. She was using the Sitka Fine Arts Camp kitchen for her pop-up cooking, but she is looking for another kitchen to use this summer. She hopes to have a bicycle food cart for special events, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, and to use pop-up locations at other times. Eventually she hopes to find a more permanent location.

“The Sitka Local Food Network winnings will allow me to stay sustainable by financing biodegradable packaging for my take-out only food cart,” Stelzenmuller says. “Staying dedicated to creating less waste is expensive and this is a step in the right direction. Sitka already faces mounting issues with shipping waste off the island. As a new business we aim to be part of the solution by being conscientious of our impact. I am sourcing biodegradable packaging specifically so that I know, no matter where it ends up in the waste stream, it will not negatively impact our environment.”

Although seafood entries unanimously swept this year’s contest, past winners have spanned other edibles. Last year, the top prizes went to frozen yogurt and chicken eggs. The contest has previously honored sourdough bread, foraged mushrooms, Cuban pork sandwiches, fermented vegetables, spice rubs, beach greens, and local tea.

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