Peter Pan came under new ownership in 2021 with a core value to emphasize quality standards, to produce products that delight and satisfy, and show commitment to excellence.
Also in 2021, Peter Pan welcomed Michael De Caro as new Vice President of retail sales and product development. De Caro leads the Peter Pan Seafood team in developing new retail items. He began his career as a chef and then moved into the seafood supply industry and now can bring both talents to the Peter Pan team. With experience as a chef and leading the team in developing new retail items, De Caro was up for the task to compete for Peter Pan in the Alaska Symphony of Seafood.
The Alaska Symphony of Seafood provides companies an opportunity to bring commercial-ready value-added products made from Alaskan seafood to life. Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation says that the Symphony is an exciting platform that encourages companies to invest in product development, by helping promote new products and competitively position Alaska seafood in national and global markets.
Peter Pan Seafood was deemed the 2023 Grand Prize Winner by creating a recipe of Wild Caught Alaska Salmon with Ribbon Kelp Chimichurri.
De Caro talked to National Fisherman about his process of creating this recipe.
“For me, it was probably somewhere between six months to a year of coming up with the concept of it, but I didn’t really put a lot of pen to paper for some time. Probably only about a month before the Symphony was when I really started getting cracking on it.”
De Caro says that he makes traditional chimichurri all the time, especially during grilling season. Chimichurri is traditional South American and Mexican sauce but is elucidated as a piquant sauce traditionally used on meat typically containing parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and flakes of chili pepper.
So, for it to be on salmon and made with kelp, De Caro had something unique up his sleeve for his competing team. He also mentioned that over the past couple years chimichurri has popped up in top food buzzwords. The Food Network even shared back in 2019 that chimichurri was a trend alert that was spreading fast. It is not only a hot topic for foodies and chefs, but a tasty spread that is not only used on meats, but on seafood as well.
De Caro grew up in the kitchen- from his family restaurant business to becoming a chef early on in his career. Through months of contemplating the recipe for their award-winning product, De Caro took in his experience with the popular chimichurri sauce and added kelp, which was also an emerging item that foodies have been dabbling more and more with.
Kelp farms were popping up all around him off from the West Coast and Alaska. Not only did he decide to support the seafood markets by using Alaskan salmon in the competing recipe but took it one step further and incorporated an aquaculture element as well.
De Caro worked with the kelp farm, Seagrove Kelp Co. who were more than generous with product for him to tinker with.
“Moisture content is quite significant in kelp," said DeCaro. "It probably took three or four real tries to manage the moisture level.”
Some of the big seafood companies in Seattle have huge research and development teams testing new recipes and products they want to compete with at the Symphony.
However, De Caro was able to make this a family adventure. He said that it was the weekends and nights with his wife where he was able to experiment and play with the recipe. He said he did one initial testing in the office, and he knew the flavor was a bit off, but he wanted feedback from his team.
“It was really promising," said De Caro. "I just knew I was close, so I made a few more tweaks and then that was kind of it. It was really a short process.”
Though the recipe for the competition may have been perfected for taste, De Caro faced another obstacle.
“The biggest challenge on behalf of this process was getting it to be commercially viable and getting it to where it can be produced by a factory, run through the sauce machines and all the other gizmos we must use," said De Caro. "That was the hardest part, not the flavors.”
The Wild Caught Alaska Salmon with Ribbon Kelp Chimichurri not only won the Symphony but was created as a retail item and will be sold by Peter Pan Seafood. De Caro explained that the company created an all-new brand for the product, including new logos and packaging. By making all the packaging new for this special product, they were able to make it a little different and fun. De Caro shared that there are little Easter eggs of the Peter Pan story hidden within the sleek new packaging of this ready to cook wild-caught Alaskan seafood product.