Top British chefs experience Alaska Seafood first hand on Culinary Retreat

Photo 08-06-2023, 12 04 49

At the start of June, two leading British chefs boarded a small jet plane in Seattle, headed for the coastal town of Sitka in Alaska. Landing in cool fourteen degree Celsius weather,  Ferdinand ‘Budgie’ Montoya and Steven Edwards had come prepared. Forewarned about ‘unpredictable’ weather and guided by a helpful packing list – the chefs were ready for a short transfer by boat to Dove Island Lodge, the backdrop to Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s 2023 Culinary Retreat. 

Over four days, Budgie and Edwards enjoyed a number of cooking demonstrations, a day of saltwater sport fishing and an Alaska Salmon tasting. Woven into the cooking, fishing and eating were presentations on sustainability, fish species and harvesting education from local experts and ASMI representatives. 

Feet firmly back on the ground, and feeling inspired by his trip to Alaska’s pristine fishing grounds, we asked Budgie to share the highlights from attending the Culinary Retreat.

What made you say ‘yes’ to taking time away from your business to discover Alaska’s coastline and fishing industry?

Well ‘Fishing in Alaska’ has been on my bucket list. So apart from ticking that off! 

One of the great privileges of cooking is the constant opportunities to learn and discover. All of these learnings shape who you are as a chef. 

I am very grateful and feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to see and learn first hand more about Alaska Seafood in its natural state, and to get a better understanding of the processes involved within the industry.


What were your first impressions of Sitka and its surrounding nature? 

The initial impression was certainly one of awe. The fresh air and smell of the sea was hypnotic.


You were asked to come equipped with recipes in mind – can you tell us about those? 

I came in with a fairly open mind. I didn't necessarily have recipes in mind, more of an idea that I wanted to do a raw and a cooked dish. A little cliche, but I wanted to let the ingredients do the talking. 

I ended up doing a Kinilaw which is a Filipino style ceviche utilising local scallops. And a Sinigang which is a sour soup dish using wilk king salmon we had caught.

The retreat included educational elements on species, seafood preparation and sustainability. Can you share one sustainability fact that left an impression on you? 

One of the key messaging was around [Alaska’s] commitment to sustainability, so much so that it was written into the State Constitution.  Also, White King Salmon blew my mind. I had no idea they existed!


Can you comment on the importance of sustainably sourced seafood and ingredients for your own restaurant? 

Sustainability sits at the forefront of our sourcing, we have a responsibility as chefs to not only provide delicious meals but to ensure that traceability and best practices are being followed throughout the production chain.


Has the retreat inspired you to incorporate Alaska Seafood in future seasonal menus? 

It has certainly opened my eyes to using Alaska seafood in the future. It's hard to argue with a quality, wild product that has all the traceability and sustainable practices behind it.


Can you share a personal highlight from your time in Alaska with ASMI?

My highlight [was] the daily cooking [and] demo sessions. It's rare to be able to share and absorb knowledge from so many different experts: from chefs to fish mongers, from all corners of the world. Truly inspiring sessions!

More about Ferdinand ‘Budgie’ Montoya

‘Budgie’ champions Filipino cuisine in the London restaurant scene. The Sydney-raised chef first presented Londoners with a food hall offering: Apoy. Serving up barbecued skewers, with genius-level flavour combinations.  Since Market Hall, Budgie has established a permanent home in Sarap in Carnaby, where he continues to find fusion between beautiful produce, traditional Filipino flavour and a unique Chef Budgie ‘twist’. 

More about Steven Edwards

After winning the sixth series of Masterchef: The Professionals, Steven Edwards spent three years creating pop-up restaurant experiences. In 2017 he started ‘etch’, finding a permanent home for the restaurant in Brighton & Hove. etch reflects seasonality through its weekly tasting menus – celebrating local and British produce.