The Corkline

Interview with Lisa Nguyen

Published February 6th, 2024 by Copper River Salmon

Lisa Nguyen, a self-proclaimed “professional amateur cook” spent 8 incredible days in Cordova during the Summer of 2022, taking in all that she possibly could during her visit to our Copper River salmon fishery. She was joined by a group of all-star chefs and bloggers, including Danielle Krates, creator of Rustic Joyful Food, and Byron Gomez from Bravo’s Top Chef Season 18. They took a spectacular plane ride over the fleet and the wilds surrounding Cordova, made a stellar meal together and learned about sustainability and the science behind what makes our salmon truly stand out in a crowd. 

After her trip, we sat down and had a phone chat with Lisa to talk about her experience with our local fishery, her worldly travels, and making ramen using using Copper River salmon and noodles from a local Alaskan company.  

Lisa: Hello?

Mathias: Hey! How’s it goin'?

Lisa: Good, how are you?

Mathias: I’m doing quite well. I had a brief little break from the rain here so I can't complain. 

Lisa: Haha, like how brief?

Mathias: Well, it’s been 4 days basically. 

Lisa: Oh, oh that’s a long time.

Mathias: Yeah so livin’ the life here 


Mathias: It seems like you've been up to some exciting stuff since you left.

Lisa: Yeah, I think right after Alaska I had Mexico City, wait, no, Mexico City was before that. I don't even remember. There was Germany, Barcelona, and then Thailand. I just got back last week and am just settling in, trying to chill for a bit. 

Mathias: That's quite the trip. World travel. 

Lisa: Yeah! I ate so much good food. My belly was very happy. 

Mathias: Haha, right-o. So, I’ve just got a little list of questions here um, I guess I initially wrote these questions with a restaurant chef focus so I’ll skip over some that aren't directly applicable. 

Starting at the top here: Do you feel that you’ve gained a deeper appreciation for, or, a better understanding of the process of bringing salmon to the world?

Lisa: Yeah, for sure. The hands-on experience of just watching the fish being caught by the fishermen and then being processed and then even going to the Department of Fish and Game had it so well-rounded. 

Mathias: Was there an aspect that stuck out particularly to you?

Lisa: I really enjoyed meeting the fishermen. To see all the hard work that they put into catching the fish. 

Mathias: Yeah no, there's a lot more that goes into it than you would think from an outside perspective. 

Lisa: Yeah, for sure. There’s so much information there, so many components to just getting the fish. I’m excited to go through the footage and recap and post those videos. 

Mathias: Yeah, we’re excited to see what you have. It was a good time and I’m sure it will come through on the video.

Mathias: So my next question is, do you believe that this trip has shaped the way you think about sourcing protein or food in general beyond salmon?

Lisa: I think so. I don’t know how I can go back to eating salmon at the store after eating Copper River salmon. Just seeing the process, how it’s all done, it's just amazing. 

Mathias: What was the most surprising aspect of your time in Alaska? 

Lisa: I guess I didn’t expect it to be such a calming place. Yeah, it was more the ambiance of how I felt at peace in Cordova. Not only were we getting so much knowledge thrown at us, but it was also just calming. The group was chill and you guys did such a good job of like, I guess bussing us around and getting us to the right spots and stuff. 

Mathias: Yeah, right I guess it’s always trying to find the balance of getting you all the information possible while also trying to give you guys a little downtime so you do get that calm peaceful time. 

Mathias: How has your comfort level with serving wild salmon changed?

Lisa: Honestly, I haven’t cooked any salmon since I’ve been back since I was traveling so much, but I do think I feel more confident cooking and serving it. Well, when I do cook it I guess (laughs) I plan on doing a 30-day ramen challenge with the salmon you sent me.

Mathias: Oh really? I’d love to see how that goes. 

Lisa: Yeah, I even found some local ramen while in Cordova that I plan to use with it which seemed really fitting (laughs) 

Mathias: I’ve never seen that, do you happen to remember the brand name?

Lisa: No, not off the top of my head, but I’ll send it to you when I find out. 

Mathias: Haha ok, I’d like that. 


Mathias: So moving forward, from what you learned, do you feel that Copper River salmon is truly a superior fish? Or do you think it is just marketing?

Lisa: Yes, it is a superior fish. They have to travel quite far. 

Mathias: We may be biased but we think it is a miraculous fish. You can't travel 300 miles without a little bit of fat on you. 

Mathias: So you already touched on it a little bit by talking about Fish and Game, but what was your impression of the efforts put towards sustainability?

Lisa: I think it's really commendable, the fact that they see the angry side of the fishermen. They want to make sure the numbers are good out there, very commendable. 

Mathias: Is there anything you wish you’d known before coming?

Lisa: I think jokingly like the rain aspect. I didn’t think it would rain that much! I think it made us value the days when it didn't rain. 

Mathias: Yeah, that’s how it always feels here. Like it’s sunny out, I can’t just go home after work, I gotta take advantage of this. 

Mathias: Was there anything else you wish you did while here?

Lisa: Even though I get motion sickness, I would love to catch a King salmon and go out on a gillnetter and experience that someday. I’ll have to come back out for it. But other than that, I don’t feel like I missed anything I regret. 

Mathias: Where do you find inspiration for a salmon dish?

Lisa: A lot of it is online. I see videos of other people doing it. You briefly showed a video of a chef rolling up the salmon and pan frying it and that’s gonna be the inspiration for how I cook the salmon in the ramen I got in Cordova. Watching other people doing it and seeing that it’s possible is an inspiration.

Mathias: I really like that answer because it's a lot different than the answers we got from the chefs. It’s a lot more relatable for me. It’s like oh yeah I saw that online and thought it looked cool so I’ll give it a try. 

Mathias: Can you describe to the best of your memory the dish you prepared during salmon camp?

Lisa: Yeah, I remember being so like, out of my element at that moment, like cooking with top chefs (laughs) but uh, yeah, it was the salmon cream cheese egg rolls. 

Mathias: Those were so good!

Lisa: I was going to do something else, but thought yeah I should just do this. I’m glad everyone enjoyed that. 

Lisa: So we filleted our own salmon that day and I completely butchered mine (laughs) but I used the extra meat off the bone so that I didn't waste it, and I scraped that off the bone, and threw that in with the cream cheese. I used salt, pepper, scallops, garlic and just fried it up. 

Mathias: It is fun to look back on that night, it was such a great time to see you all cook and the different styles you have and backgrounds you come from. 

Mathias: Any last comments, or suggestions..

Lisa: I don’t think so. I just wanna say again thanks for the opportunity. I look back at that trip and even though I’ve been traveling quite a bit since then, it still may be my favorite trip of the year. It just had a calming effect on me, I was able to self-reflect and I learned so much as well as just being around great people. 

Mathias: I’m so glad you were able to come. I couldn’t have asked for it to go much better. 

Mathias: Thank you for coming and thank you for the time and thought you have put into everything. I’m glad you had fun here and are excited to work with salmon in the future. 

Lisa: Yeah, of course! I’ll send you my videos once they are done. 

Lisa and the Fall Salmon Camp 2022 crew

Note* After further investigation, the only handmade ramen noodles from Alaska distributed locally are from a company called Within the Wild. I cannot confirm these are the same noodles that Lisa found while in Cordova, but they look pretty tasty to boot. 

In March, Lisa started a series of videos showcasing the Fall Salmon Camp she was a part of in 2022. Just like she mentioned in her interview, she did share them with us.  

You can also watch them and more from Lisa on her YouTube channel

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