It was 7 a.m. on a recent Thursday morning when Marc Lupino, chief executive chef at Valley seafood restaurant Ocean 44, found himself on a small private company jet headed from Phoenix to Cordova, Alaska.
The plan seemed relatively straightforward: Land in Alaska after a quick stop in Seattle to pick up an executive from Pacific Seafood, the company which owned the jet and which had set up this opportunity, fish for a few hours, pack the catch, then board the plane and head back to Scottsdale to prepare and serve the fresh-caught fish for that night’s dinner.
Only, the trip didn’t go exactly as planned.
First Fish is a big deal in Cordova, a tiny town with one hotel, one restaurant, one bar and no roads in or out. The famous adjacent Copper River, known for its highly prized wild salmon, is open for only a brief fishing season—often just 12 weeks long, with two days a week allowed for fishing. The fishing days are controlled by environmentalists, who only allow fishing if enough fish have gone up the river.
Thus, First Fish—the first day of fishing for the season—is a highly anticipated event. And, this was an extremely special opportunity for Marc.