What Does ‘Fresh’ Really Mean?
When it comes to seafood at Duke’s, I am committed to wild, sustainably harvested products. Not only is this choice more wholesome and better for our environment, but it is also better when it comes to flavor.
The natural flavor of fresh Wild Salmon or halibut is incredibly vibrant and strong; it needs almost no added spices or seasonings. Fresh ingredients make the difference in every dish at Duke’s. But did you know that ‘fresh’ doesn’t always mean what you think it does?
Many restaurants claim to serve fresh seafood on their menus. But when I first got into the restaurant business, I learned something shocking: that ‘fresh’ seafood you’re ordering can be up to twenty-seven days old! By the time a fish is caught, packed, transported and arriving at the kitchen door, three weeks could have passed from ocean to table. To me, that is simply unacceptable.
Fresh seafood has two enemies: time and temperature. Consistently controlling those two elements is essential to locking in the delicious flavor of fresh-caught seafood. And the only way to do that effectively is through the practice of ‘freezing at the source.’
Frozen is better than fresh unless you are guaranteed delivery in 48 hours
Our fishing partners in Alaska ensure that we recieve the highest-quality and freshest seafood.
Freezing fish within 48 hours after it’s caught is the secret to retaining that fresh, clean and natural flavor. After decades of working closely together, my Alaskan partners and I have worked out a system of best practices to ensure that Duke’s Chowder House receives only the highest-quality seafood available. Everywhere I’ve gone, I have gained knowledge about what ultimately affects the taste of our food. I have learned about bleeding fish, icing fish, handling, transporting, how to identify great fish and, most importantly, how to identify great fishermen and processors. Not all processing systems are created equal, and it is a crucial factor in the resulting quality of the fish.
In Copper River, the fishermen I work with ice their fish right at capture. Within 24-48 hours, they bring their catch to a large ship called a tender for processing. The fishermen empty their boats and are right back fishing while the tender gently transfers the fish in 33-degree seawater to Trident Seafoods of Copper River Seafoods in Cordova, Alaska. These two companies are exceptional. They have consistent temperature control, rapid processing, thoughtful packaging and quick freezing.
Below you will find an example of the best practices we have developed over the years; these instructions are specifically for gill net fishermen:
Gill Net Fishermen
1. Bleed fish at capture.
2. Ice fish immediately and throughout the time before arriving at the processing plant.
1. Ice fish from arrival up to the time for fillet, vacuum pack and freezing.
2. Fish temperature not to exceed 34 degrees F at any time during processing.
3. Head and gut (H & G), then fillet fish immediately.
Note: Pin-bone fish one day after arrival (difficult to pin bone same day – it tears the fish apart)
4. Vacuum pack and freeze immediately.
Some people think I’m a little over-zealous, but ensuring Duke’s provides great tasting, wholesome food that doesn’t harm the environment is extremely important to me. Freezing soon after a catch also keeps our seafood nutritionally intact, which means it is healthier for our customers. “Fresh” fish that hasn’t been frozen loses nutritional value every minute between catch and consumption. This is what sets Duke’s apart from other restaurants; our intimate knowledge of the ocean-to-table journey means that our customers can be certain they are eating the highest-quality seafood available.
Sustainability and Me
Fresh ingredients are a staple in Duke’s kitchens; we don’t settle for anything less than the best.
Searching for the world’s finest seafood is my passion. But it’s not just about seafood. I am constantly in search of natural foods that are chemical-free and sustainably sourced. That is why Duke’s stopped serving farmed salmon back when it was the hot new trend, and why our kitchen only uses dairy products that are growth-hormone free. Buying natural just makes sense to me.
There’s another reason why I put so much time and effort into sourcing sustainable food, and it’s very simple. My grandchildren deserve access to fresh Wild Salmon in their lifetimes, as do their children and grandchildren. Together, we can create a sustainable food industry in this country, and around the world, to ensure that this becomes a reality. It will take hard work and dedication, but I sincerely believe that it’s possible.
One step on the path towards true sustainability is choosing to serve wild, fresh, frozen-at-the-source seafood at Duke’s Chowder House. It is better for the health of our customers as well as the health of our planet.
Book a reservation at one of our six locations today and experience what fresh seafood truly tastes like!