During the years of my early childhood, my parents and I would travel to York Beach, Maine every summer. This little town is the setting for some of my most cherished memories. Picnics on the shore, Skee-Ball at the old arcade, and saltwater taffy at the Goldenrod restaurant were all integral parts of growing up for me.
However, what may have had the biggest impact of all is the connection I developed with the ocean over the course of these visits. Not only did I fall in love with its crashing waves, invigorating briny smell and vast expansiveness, but also the bounty that the ocean provides. Maine was where I was first introduced to seafood, and since then, if you’ll pardon the expression, I’ve been hooked.
The first seafood dish that I can remember having was crispy maple and mustard glazed salmon. Not exactly something that one would consider being a child-friendly dish, right? Keep in mind that my palate as a kid wasn’t exactly on an average level. I was ordering roasted free-range chicken and quinoa while everyone else my age was munching on chicken fingers and fries.
I remember being amazed by the salmon’s flavour, the colour and the variation of textures. It was sweet, salty and rich, its moist centre contrasted by a beautiful crisp skin. With just a squeeze of lemon to add brightness and acidity, the humble salmon filet had become something magical. This may have been the moment that I realized not only my passion for seafood, but food in general. I wanted nothing more than to know how to make it myself.
Somehow, my dad managed to get the chef to let me into the kitchen when we went back to the restaurant the next day. It felt like I’d just crossed over the plane into some kind of wonderland. I was enveloped with the sounds, smells and heat of the line, and I was ready to learn.
The chef patiently showed me how to cook salmon and achieve crispness on the skin. After oiling the pan and getting it nice and smoking hot, the fish, upon being seasoned with salt, pepper and Old Bay, is laid gently into the pan skin-side down. The high heat cooks the skin quickly, essentially creating a sear. You know it’s crisp when it can slide around the pan freely. The filet is then flipped, and the pan is placed in the oven to cook through. After a few minutes in the oven, the fish is glazed with sauce in the pan, and served skin-side up.
It astounded me how simple a process it was, and I believe learning it first-hand is what ignited my love for cooking. When I open my restaurant, I’ll already know what the first item on the menu is going to be…crispy maple and mustard glazed salmon.
Chef, writer, musician and wild child, an avid adventurer in the world of gastronomy. Alex has a passion for food, and expresses that passion through cooking, writing and teaching. His body is a temple, built on brioche, burgers and bourbon. He refuses to serve a steak well done.