Local chefs have fish to fry

Nine Minnesota chefs are competing for $1,000 on Tuesday at the University of Minnesota.

Jill Jensen

Chef Chad Rasmussen may have never cooked lake herring before, but Tuesday he and eight other chefs will compete at the University of Minnesota for $1,000 to make the best entrée.

âÄúI have no idea what IâÄôm going to do until I get there,âÄù said Rasmussen, the executive chef at StellaâÄôs Fish Café in Minneapolis.

âÄúA Salute to Lake SuperiorâÄôs Sustainable FisheriesâÄù will feature a cooking competition between Minnesota chefs with Minnesota-produced fish and a public tasting.

The event, hosted by the University of Minnesota Sea Grant program on the mMinneapolis campus, celebrates the 100th birthday of Athelstan Spilhaus, a former dean of the UniversityâÄôs College of Science and Engineering and founder of the 32 Sea Grant programs around the country, said Director Jeff Gunderson.

The cook-off will take place this morning and the winner will be announced at a public tasting event at 4 p.m. in McNamara Alumni Center. The cook-off itself will be a private event. Gunderson said they expect about 300 people to come for the tasting. Tickets are available for $10 at the University Bookstore.

He said the chefs will use lake herring, or cisco, caught in Lake Superior as a symbol of fishing sustainability. He said the population of this fish âÄúcollapsedâÄù in the 1960s, but has since rebounded into an industry that provides $10 million in jobs and income to Minnesota.

Spilhaus was interested in the sustainability of oceans and lakes, Gunderson said.

The event will focus on âÄúthinking and eating locally,âÄù with music by Michael Monroe, who plays instruments made of wood found at the bottom of Lake Superior.

Rasmussen said lake herring is more common in northern Minnesota restaurants âÄî heâÄôs never seen it in Minneapolis.

âÄú[This event will] open peopleâÄôs eyes and chefâÄôs eyes to say, âÄòHey, this fish is out there; You guys can use it, you can get it, you need to speak up,âÄôâÄù he said.

Although this fish is new to Rasmussen, he does have a game plan to win the judgeâÄôs over: âÄúSalty, sweet, savory smokiness,âÄù he said.