Duke’s Passion Drives His Mission To Source The Finest Sustainable Seafood On The Planet
The Story Behind the Legend
I went to college to become a doctor but along the way, got attracted to the business world and became a stock broker instead. I loved taking my clients to lunch and fell in love with restaurants in general. I was so dazzled that I decided to open one myself.
On opening night, what started out as a nice gathering with family and friends turned into a not-so-enjoyable time when I noticed that our guests were not getting great service. Immediately I got up from the table, leaving my wife and friends, essentially ruining their dinner, put on an apron, rolled up my sleeves and began my career as a restaurateur that very moment.
After successfully turning that one night into a learning experience, the restaurant – called Ray’s Boathouse – eventually became well known in the Pacific Northwest. Building on my success at Ray’s it was time to develop my own restaurant without partners or investors. It filled me with pride to see my own name on a sign hanging outside my own restaurant. And, it was especially meaningful to me because it was named after my Dad, a flashy pilot in WWII. He was one of the biggest influences in my life: my Dad inspired me to expect a lot from myself, he cared deeply about kids and was filled with grace.
Even though my career was in business, I never stopped studying cures for diseases and medical science. I was always fascinated. Several years later in the late 70s, having been a fan of diet drinks, I ran across a study about aspartame which revealed that small amounts of it were carcinogenic. I immediately threw away my cans of TAB and I’ll never forget walking into the kitchen in my own restaurant and reading the labels with a new eye. My medical science interest was revived at that very moment. I began eliminating trans-fats, high fructose corn syrup, growth hormones and a whole of boat-load of artificial ingredients.
Once I got rid of all those color and flavor enhancers, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did the food look as wonderful as always, it actually tasted better!
I went on to win the Seattle Chowder Cook-off contest three years in a row. In year four, I was asked to step out of the contest and instead become a judge because restaurants were threatening not to compete at all. When I agreed to step out of the contest, the organizers gave me the Golden Ladle award and finally, the light bulb went off: it’s time to become a Chowder House. We soon grew to six locations and, today, nearly 40 years later, Duke’s has served millions of guests from all over the world our signature Award Winning Clam Chowder and other memorable dishes.
And then there was another pivotal moment in the mid 80’s when I was invited to Alaska to see how fish were handled. As I stood in the processing plant, watching the fish being unloaded from the boats, it struck me that I had no idea how the fish were caught, how they were handled, were they bled and iced, and how much difference did it make. From then on, when I went to Alaska I was always on the boats to see things first-hand. My education led me to discover that fresh seafood isn’t really fresh – it can be as old as 27 days and still be called “fresh.” That’s why I developed an innovative new concept: “seafood better than fresh.” This is seafood that is frozen to minus 40 degrees within 48 hours of capture. It’s a process we call, “Seafood Better Than Fresh.™”
With each trip that I took to Alaska over the next 30 years, I observed a lot and became increasingly alarmed. I saw salmon unloaded from the fishing vessel but sitting on the dock with no ice covering it. It lead to a frozen product that failed miserably 8 months later. I saw fresh seafood sitting on the tarmac of an airport in Alaska in 80 degree sunshine, no protection and ruined before it arrived at its destination. I checked the temperature of fish coming off boats and realized that not every fisherman ices their fish properly. Fish that is not iced properly loses ½ day of freshness for every degree above 32 degrees. All of this inspired me to create procedures and standards to ensure the seafood served in my restaurants is the best on the planet.
And, along the way, I discovered that our salmon and steelhead are endangered species on the West Coast. There isn’t even enough salmon to conduct old fashioned fishing derbies. It bothers me to know that we are losing a critical food source. There used to be millions of fish in our Pacific Northwest waters. Now, there’s only a fraction of that amount. We are running out of salmon locally, and that’s why I have been purchasing seafood further north in Alaska where the waters there are pristine.
I can no longer sit by idly without doing something to restore this vital resource. I will do everything I can to make sure there is plenty of wild salmon and steelhead for our grandchildren and our grandchildren’s grandchildren.
That’s why I have a two missions: the first is to help Long Live The Kings, an organization devoted to restoring wild salmon, steelhead and other seafood along the west coast.
My second mission is to keep serving 100% sustainable, delicious seafood to the thousands of customers who love coming to my restaurants.
Duke Moscrip is the author of: As Wild As It Gets . . . Duke’s Secret Sustainable Seafood Recipes
Duke Moscrip, Author and CEO of Duke’s Chowder House
Duke is a self-proclaimed “seafood sleuth” who has relentlessly developed incredible sources that provide Sustainable, Wild Seafood. Going straight to the source in Alaska to inspect the catch himself, Duke vows never to serve farmed salmon, hence the title: As Wild As It Gets. Duke and his son and partner, John Moscrip, are the proud owners of Duke’s Chowder House, an Award Winning chain of six restaurants throughout the Seattle and Puget Sound region. Duke lives in Kirkland, WA with his wife Cybele, enjoys playing golf and spending time with his four grandchildren. Having lived in the Seattle area for most of his life, Duke is passionate about the Northwest, preserving the environment, and sharing his fun and witty personality with everyone he has the pleasure of meeting.
Ingrid Pape-Sheldon, Principal Photographer
Ingrid has been inspired by the power of images for most of her life. She has received awards and recognition for her film work in Germany as well as for her photographic work for Seattle Women Magazine. After moving from Berlin in 1997, she established a successful photography studio in Seattle where she brings out the same attractive warmth in portrait, editorial and commercial photography as you see in the inviting images of food, places, and people within these pages.
“Wild” Bill Ranniger, Co-Author, Executive Chef of Duke’s Chowder House
As an art major at Central Washington University over 30 years ago, Bill was spending time at a potter’s wheel and wondering what kind of art he was going to teach for the rest of his life when he was offered his first salaried chef job. For the past twenty years, he has been working for Duke’s Chowder House and for the last 10 as Corporate Executive Chef, “writing menus and stirring the chowder.” He has won several awards, his favorites are: Most Festive Chef at Gig Harbor Chowder Contest, Best BBQ at the Bite of Seattle and Best Bite at Signature Chefs.
A portion of the sale of Duke’s new cookbook, “As Wild As It Gets . . . Duke’s Secret Sustainable Seafood Recipes,” will benefit Long Live The Kings, an organization dedicated to the restoration of steelhead and salmon in the Pacific Northwest.
Book design by Aileen Yost and Suzanne Harkness; Primary Photographer, Ingrid Pape-Sheldon.
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