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2 Alaska chefs to showcase state's seafood at prestigious NYC dinner

  • Author: Suzanna Caldwell
  • Updated: September 30, 2016
  • Published February 13, 2016

Two Alaska chefs are headed to New York City to show off their skills at one of the nation's prestigious culinary institutions.

Denali Park chef Laura Cole of 229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern and Juneau's Beau Schooler of The Rookery Café will host a dinner at the James Beard House April 6.

The James Beard House, part of the James Beard Foundation, is probably best known for its annual awards. The awards are considered the Oscars of the food world, with chefs, restaurateurs, food writers and even restaurant architects taking home top honors each year.

Last year Schooler was a semifinalist for the Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Cole cooked at the James Beard House in the late 1990s while working for Vermont's Simon Pearce restaurant.

The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute selected the two chefs with oversight from the James Beard Foundation.

Izabela Wojcik, director of house programming for the James Beard Foundation, said in an email the foundation's goal is to showcase American regions and give diners access to Alaska chefs and seafood. "(Which) is rare and such a treat," she wrote.

Wojcik wrote that the foundation often collaborates with organizations and educational initiatives for dinners. She added the meals served in house are neither related to nor as exclusive as the James Beard Awards.

The two will be the sixth and seventh Alaska chefs to host a dinner in the space. In separate interviews, both Cole and Schooler said being invited to cook at the event is a huge honor.

Cole added that neither chef is employed by ASMI, and it's her and Schooler's names on the event, not the agency.

"If they feel like I can best represent Alaska seafood in New York to an audience of people that are as well-informed in the culinary world as this group, then it's an incredible honor," Cole said in phone interview Thursday.

The menu is billed as a "Great Alaska Seafood Celebration." Hors d'oeuvres include a spot prawn crudo with mint, Serrano chilies and limes served on cucumber slices and seaweed-vinegar Alaska pork rinds topped with salmon roe and ginger-scallion crème fraiche. For entrees, there will be cod with morel mushroom tea served with tangerine-semolina noodles, spring peas and amaranth, among other courses.

Cole and Schooler will take turns serving different dishes, with some collaboration. For example, a spot prawn head custard served with spruce biscotti finishes the meal as a dessert, a twist on a pot de crème the two collaborated on that includes spruce tips Cole foraged herself.

Those foraged bits -- sprinkled throughout Cole's menu -- are a small part in what she hopes people take away from the meal.

"That's the thing to me -- to be able to share some of the treasures we have here and change people's perceptions," she said. "They see a lot of Alaska reality TV shows, but there's a level of sophistication that does not get represented very well in the mainstream media."

Tickets for the general public are available online for $170 per person.

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