I just talked to chef Jason Wilson of Crush restaurant in Seattle, and at least once a year, he tries to go fishing in Alaska. On his trip last summer, the fisherman who owned the boat recognized Jason from the cover of Food & Wine when Jason was a 2006 Best New Chef. He told Jason that he visited Seattle often and would come by the restaurant sometime to show him a new food product he had been working on.
“Great, I thought to myself. Another smoked salmon,” Jason said. Several months later, the fisherman stopped by for dinner. Afterward, the two talked for a while, and the fisherman pulled out a metal tin filled with flaky salt crystals.
“This is the product I told you about,” the fisherman said.
Apparently, the fisherman has been collecting salt near Sitka, Alaska, and processing it like Maldon salt so it’s extra-flaky. Jason said that since the Alaskan waters are so pure, the salt varies naturally with the seasons. The winter salt is clean and minerally, but in the spring, the salt picks up flavor from herring, which lay their eggs in Sitka then. And thanks to all the kelp and seaweed that grow during the summer, the resulting summer salt has a slightly grassy note.
Jason buys the salt directly from the fisherman and uses it constantly at Crush, including on the table with bread. He has also been sharing it with his Seattle chef friends, and when he comes to New York for the James Beard Awards, he plans to show it to some East Coast chefs, hoping they’ll try it out, too. Seasonal sea salts from Alaska? Somehow, I don’t think he’ll have a problem finding any takers.