Twelve businesses, including two from Sitka, selected as finalists in Path to Prosperity contest

Andrew Jylkka of the Sitka bakery Southeast Dough Company puts a tray of fresh-baked bread into a rack to cool. His business was one of the 12 finalists in the 2022 Path to Prosperity business development competition.

JUNEAU, Alaska — The Path to Prosperity Business Competition has selected this year’s cohort of 12 businesses to advance to the second round of the competition. This year’s list of finalists includes two businesses from Sitka — Laura Tirman of Alpenglow Adventures and Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company.

Started by Sealaska and The Nature Conservancy in 2013 and administered by Spruce Root Community Development, Path to Prosperity is an award-winning competition for small businesses and start-ups located in Southeast Alaska. The 2022 cycle of the Path to Prosperity competition aims to assist Southeast Alaskan entrepreneurs in contributing to a sustainable and regenerative tourism industry in the region that is community-led and locally owned.

In Round 2 of the competition, finalists will participate in Path to Prosperity’s innovative Business Boot Camp where they will get access to resources, work with mentors, and receive one-on-one consulting to develop their business plans. Two finalists will be selected to win $25,000 each to grow their businesses. The following businesses were selected as this year’s finalists:

  • Business Name, Primary Applicant, Location
  • Alaska Brown Bear Bread Co., Sean Williams, Hoonah
  • Alpenglow Adventures, Laura Tirman, Sitka
  • Costa Brava, Rebecca Kameika, Haines
  • Fathoms Alaska, Seth Bader, Juneau
  • Instant Vintage Photos, Kimberly Pruitt, Skagway
  • New Earth Fungi, Alannah Johnson, Juneau
  • Rooney’s Roost B&B, Caitlin Cardell, Wrangell
  • Scoot AK, Aaron Angerman, Wrangell
  • SEAK Expeditions, Joseph Oesterling, Haines
  • Silverthorn Charters, James Silverthorn, Thorne Bay
  • Southeast Dough Company, Andrew Jylkka, Sitka
  • The Wheelhouse, Pat Blair, Petersburg

From starting Wrangell’s first electric scooter rental company, to offering experiential three-week canoe trips for Alaska Native youth, to hosting an inaugural catch-and-release steelhead tournament on Prince of Wales Island, the 2022 Path to Prosperity finalists are defining Southeast Alaska’s visitor industry, creating jobs, and driving regenerative economic growth.

“Sustaining healthy communities in the 21st century means translating Indigenous knowledge, community resilience, and collaborative adaptability into sustainable jobs and innovative economic opportunities,” Spruce Root Executive Director Alana Peterson said. “The Path to Prosperity Competition supports the type of place-based economic development where locally owned and operated businesses are given support to be successful and to develop products and services that solve some of our greatest challenges in the region. A total of 23 entrepreneurs from eight communities applied to Round 1 of Path to Prosperity in 2022.”

While the majority of finalist businesses are involved in the visitor industry, there were some food businesses, such as Southeast Dough Company, to make the finals. Southeast Dough Company is a bakery based in Sitka that specializes in sourdough bread and other fermented products. Jylkka and Southeast Dough Company also won the 2020 Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“Participating in Path to Prosperity will help me bring the vision of Southeast Dough Company into clearer focus,” Jylkka said. “It will help me refine my goals and build my skillset to grow this business in a sustainable way.” 

Sitka’s other finalist, Alpenglow Adventures, will connect tourists with Sitka in a meaningful way by offering multi-day active adventures that include hiking, biking, kayaking, culture, food, art, and more. Alpenglow Adventures will work with and support existing local businesses by incorporating these businesses in the multi-day itineraries sold to guests as a package deal.

According to the Sustainable Southeast Partnership, regenerative tourism is a holistic approach to tourism that proactively works to improve ecosystems, elevate local economies, and promote meaningful and responsible visitor experiences. Authentic local representation, deep community involvement, and practical and innovative steps for conserving and enhancing the environment are central to this approach.

Over 10 competition cycles, Path to Prosperity has received more than 320 applications from Southeast Alaskan small business owners and entrepreneurs across 23 communities. The program has trained 122 finalists at Business Boot Camp and awarded 19 winners $610,000 to build their local businesses. All the participants have been trained in the “triple-bottom-line” approach to building a business by learning to measure their profitability as well as the environmental and social impacts of their business. In recent years, competition winners include Skyaana Coffee Co. (Klawock); Barnacle Foods (Juneau); Foundroot (Haines); Village Coffee Company (Yakutat); Kasaan Arts, Museum & Canoes (Kasaan); and more.

This program is supported by The Edgerton Foundation, Sealaska, USDA, Opportunity Finance Network, The Nature Conservancy, Wells Fargo, Oweesta Corporation, The Sustainable Southeast Partnership, Avista Foundation, Kensington Mine, AK Litho, Elgee Rehfeld, and Alaska Brewing. Spruce Root is grateful for their contributions.

Path to Prosperity is a Spruce Root program. Spruce Root provides local entrepreneurs with access to business development and financial resources in the form of loan capital, business coaching, workshops, and competitions. Together, these programs drive a regenerative economy across Southeast Alaska so communities can forge futures grounded in this uniquely Indigenous place. To learn more about Path to Prosperity or Spruce Root’s other services, visit their website at www.spruceroot.org or email grow@spruceroot.org.

Fish broth project, Enoki Eatery win $1,500 prizes in fifth Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

One group of winners is using parts of fish that normally are wasted to create fish broth, while the other winner has a Japanese-Hawaiian pop-up restaurant with an Alaska twist. Congratulations to Lexi Fish-Hackett and Edith Johnson of the as-yet unnamed fish broth business and to Gretchen Stelzenmuller of Enoki Eatery. They are the winners of $1,500 each in the fifth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“We are happy to encourage more businesses to get into the local food system with our contest,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the contest. “Even though we had other entries, our judges were unanimous in picking these two standouts. We really liked the fish broth business, since it is reducing wasted parts of the fish. Enoki Eatery is offering new tastes in Sitka, and the smoked salmon musubi is really tasty. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods into the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope our prizes continue to encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka.”

The fish broth business is still getting off the ground, but the two women behind it have deep roots in Sitka’s food system. Edith Johnson owns Our Town Catering and was head chef at a couple of Sitka hotels before opening her own catering business, while Lexi Fish-Hackett is co-owner of Fish and Family Seafoods and studied nutrition in college.

“Our food business idea is to create a fish broth product and bring it to market. Broth is such a kitchen staple and can be used in so many types of cuisines. Plus we both love soup. Who doesn’t?” Edith and Lexi said. “There’s so much goodness in the bones of fish, which don’t get fully utilized on a commercial level, and we want to tap into that.”

In their entry form, Edith wrote, “Lexi approached me with an idea that she has had for years, the thought of using fish ‘waste’ — heads, bones and the meat left on the bones — to make a product that is very sustainable but also helps use fish parts that are thrown away. Every year in Sitka alone, thousands of fish carcasses are tossed into the ocean or disposed of. We would use these to make a fish bone broth.”

Edith and Lexi plan to make three types of fish broth. The first type is a bone broth that is clear and versatile using salmon bones and meat. The second type is a smoked salmon broth, which uses fish heads smoked by Catch Sitka Seafoods, and produces a concentrated broth that is richer and flavorful, meant for soups with heavy creams or milk. The third type is a Sitka-style fumet, which is a rich, high-end French broth with leeks, garlic, white wine, and gently poached halibut. A fumet is targeted to fish sauces on a high-end scale for delicate broths.

“We are really excited to work on creating a pantry essential that is sourced from our local Southeast Alaska waters,” Lexi and Edith said. “Another goal is to help to improve food security in Alaska by focusing sales within our region and state, at least to start. We want to create a product that is convenient, nutritious, and that people love!”

Gretchen Stelzenmuller grew up in Sitka, but spent time living in Hawai’i before coming back to Sitka. She worked in kitchens along the way. She started Enoki Eatery a few months ago, and had pop-up restaurants at Harbor Mountain Brewing and the Backdoor Cafe. She was using the Sitka Fine Arts Camp kitchen for her pop-up cooking, but will be looking for another kitchen to use this summer. She hopes to have a bicycle food cart for special events, such as the Sitka Farmers Market, and to use pop-up locations at other times. Eventually she hopes to find a more permanent location.

“Enoki Eatery was born from my love of making food as beautiful as it is delicious, sustainable as it is convenient,” Gretchen wrote on her entry form. “Enoki Eatery combines unique Southeast Alaskan flavors and ingredients with the style and inspiration of Japanese street food.  We specialize in musubi, a Hawaiian/japanese snack food of sticky rice, togarashi seasoning (mainly sesames and seaweed) topped with protein, such as smoked salmon, chicken, or mushroom wrapped in sheets of nori seaweed, for easy eating and extra nutrients. 

“It is most commonly served with spam, and though I do serve it this way, I am trying to use healthier and more sustainable ingredients that reflect Alaskan culture. Our other menu items include a pork katsu sandwich, soba noodles with black garlic sauce, kimchi rice bowls, mochi cupcakes and much more. It changes with the seasons. I focus on high-quality ingredients, simple menus, and artful presentations.”

Sustainability is a concern of Gretchen’s, and she knows it can make for a costly business model in Sitka. She wants to use local ingredients, since that supports local growers and harvesters. “This not only helps our economy, but cuts down on my environmental impact through barge and air freight use,” she said.

“The Sitka Local Food Network winnings will allow me to stay sustainable by financing biodegradable packaging for my take-out only food cart,” Gretchen said. “Staying dedicated to creating less waste is expensive and this is a step in the right direction. Sitka already faces mounting issues with shipping waste off the island. As a new business we aim to be part of the solution by being conscientious of our impact. I am sourcing biodegradable packaging specifically so that I know, no matter where it ends up in the waste stream, it will not negatively impact our environment.” 

Last year’s winners were Joanne “Chef Jo” Michalski of Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies (frozen yogurt pies) and Nalani James of Eggstravgant (eggs from her chickens). The 2020 winners were Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company (fresh sourdough bread and fermented foods) and Levi Adams of Forage and Farm (mushroom growing and foraging). In 2019, our winners were Brittany Dumag of Castaway (food cart with Cuban pork sandwiches using Alaska pork) and Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers (fermented foods), with a special youth winner award for Abigail Ward of Sitka Spices (meat and fish rubs). In 2018, the winner was Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals (beach greens and local teas).

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts fifth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Do you think you have a great idea for a food business or product from Sitka? Do you grow food, fish for food, or cook food in Sitka? The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting the fifth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in an effort to spark local food entrepreneurs so we can make more local food available to residents and visitors. The contest entry deadline is Friday, March 18.

This contest will provide two $1,500 kicker prizes to help entrepreneurs launch or expand their food businesses. The contest is open to food businesses and individuals making and selling food products in Sitka, Alaska. All food business ideas must be geared toward getting more locally grown, harvested and/or produced food into the Sitka marketplace through sales in grocery stores, the Sitka Food Co-Op, the Sitka Farmers Market, restaurants, or individual marketing (such as a community supported agriculture/CSA or community supported fisheries/CSF program).

“The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to get more locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” said Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “For the past decade we’ve offered entrepreneurs a chance to sell their produce, bread and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market, grown produce to sell at the market through St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and provided a garden education program to residents. We think this contest is the next step toward getting more local food into the Sitka marketplace. Our prizes are available to Sitka residents who are sustainably growing, foraging, fishing, or manufacturing food for people in Sitka.”

Last year, we awarded our $1,500 prize for established business to Jo Michalski of Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies, which she sells at her Jo’s Downtown Dawgs hotdog/burger cart and to local restaurants. Our $1,500 prize for start-up business went to Nalani James of Eggstravagent, which are eggs from chickens she raised in town and sold to local customers (sometimes at the Sitka Farmers Market).

In 2020, we awarded our $1,500 prize for established business to Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Co., who is baking sourdough bread, as well as making sauerkraut and kimchi. Our $1,500 prize for start-up business went to Levi Adams of Forage & Farm, where he is harvesting and growing mushrooms. Our prizes were determined before the Covid-19 shutdowns, but both business owners found ways to develop and build their businesses during the pandemic.

In 2019, we gave $1,500 prizes to Brittany Dumag of the Castaway food cart in the start-up business category and to Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers in the established business category. We also gave a special $250 award to 12-year-old Abigail Ward who entered her Sitka Seasonings business. Brittany made Cuban pork sandwiches (using pork from North Pole) and other food to sell at various places in Sitka, including the Sitka Farmers Market. Tamara planned to ramp up her fermented foods business, but she ended up having some health issues that prevented her from completing her project and she ended up refunding most of her prize money. Abby made spice blends for seafood and other meats, which she sold at the first two Sitka Farmers Markets of 2019 and at other venues.

In our inaugural contest in 2018, we gave a $1,500 prize to Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals in the established business category. We had no entrants in the start-up business category, so no prize was awarded in 2018. Hope used her prize money to hire two interns to help her harvest seaweed and kelp and to help produce her products.

Participants in this contest are eligible and encouraged to enter other food business innovation contests, such as the Path To Prosperity or Symphony of Seafood contests. All participants retain the proprietary rights to their products and ideas. This contest is open to new and existing food businesses in Sitka, but this year we eliminated the separate categories and everybody is competing for the same awards. Student businesses (such as those fostered by Junior Achievement or similar programs) are welcome.

There is a small $25 entry fee for this contest. All participants (business and individual) must complete and submit our contest entry form by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 18, 2022 (by snail mail so it arrives before the deadline to Sitka Local Foods Network, Food Business Innovation Contest Entries, 408-D Marine Street, Sitka, Alaska, 99835, or by email with the Subject Line of “Food Business Innovation Contest Entries” to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com). Submitting a business plan (up to 20 pages) is recommended, but not required.

Our entry form will have room for you to describe your food business idea in a few paragraphs, but submitting a business plan will give you more room to outline your plans for funding and marketing the idea and will help your overall score. Judging will be based on how your food business idea provides new local food options in Sitka, how novel is your food business idea, how feasible is your food business (can it make a profit and be sustainable), and how professional is your presentation. At some time in late March or early April, the Sitka Local Foods Network may host a pitch presentation, where judges will interview the contest entrants and try samples of the food products. Our judging panel will score your presentation and entry form based on how your idea has a measurable impact on providing local food in Sitka (25%), has the potential for commercialization (25%), provides new employment in Sitka (25%) and fills a need in the Sitka marketplace (25%). We will give bonus points to those businesses that plan to participate in the 2022 Sitka Farmers Market.

In 2022 we are making a few changes to the rules. First, since we ended up moving a couple of entries between categories the past two years we decided to eliminate the categories and now everybody is competing for the same two awards. Second, each entry now MUST include a sample, itemized budget showing how the business owner plans to use the prize money. Third, each prize winner will sign a winner’s agreement contract before receiving the prize money that lists a series of benchmarks toward getting the product/service to market that need to be met by a certain date or else all or part of the prize money will need to be refunded to the Sitka Local Foods Network.

The Sitka Local Foods Network reserves the right to reduce or not make an award if the judges determine the applications don’t meet the minimum standards. Purchasing items such as masks and hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are acceptable uses of prize money. Marijuana edibles are not eligible for the contest.

• Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest Entry Form 2022

Sitka Kitch to host Cooking Around The Campfire: Baking Flatbread With Andrew Jylkka class on May 23

Learn how to bake flatbread over a campfire during an outdoors Sitka Kitch class, Cooking Around The Campfire: Baking Flatbread With Andrew Jylkka. This class takes place from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, May 23, at the large covered shelter at Halibut Point Recreation Area.

Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company will show students how to make sourdough flatbreads over the fire. These fun and easy breads are a great addition to any cookout whether it’s in your backyard or on the beach. For this class, they’ll be paired with salmon falafel and a tasty sauce. We may even play with some ways to use them for a sweet treat.

You’ll come away from this class with some new recipes, an introduction to cooking on open fire, a jar of sourdough starter, and some great ideas to spruce up your summer cookouts.

The salmon burger meat is made possible by Sitka Mutual Aid and a portion of this class fee will be donated to support that. If you would like to donate to Sitka Mutual Aid or become a Sitka Conservation Society member you can do so here, http://sitkamutualaid.com, and here, https://www.sitkawild.org/donate.

Andrew owns and operates Southeast Dough Company here in town. He’s a passionate cook who loves playing with recipes to incorporate ingredients found on these lands and in the oceans.

The class costs $40, which is part of our all-inclusive fee system (you no longer have to pay a class fee to register, then a separate food/supply fee). The Sitka Kitch will supply all of the food supplies for this class, but students will need to bring certain cooking items from a list provided before the class. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the class will be limited to 10 students, face masks must be worn, and social distancing must be observed.

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Friday, May 21. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. We need at least eight students to register and pre-pay to make this class happen.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-Op are now able to attend the classes for $30 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-Op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Co-op household may use the Co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the Co-op membership list.)

You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on our EventSmart page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment. Please note there is a $5 charge for parking at Halibut Point Rec, which is payable to the State of Alaska.

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We do offer one potential scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, so long as we have enough students registered to make the class happen. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch community rental commercial kitchen.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $35). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Joanne Michalski, Nalani James win $1,500 prizes in fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

One winner is making frozen mud pies while the other winner is raising chickens for fresh, local eggs to sell to Sitka residents. Congratulations to Joanne “Chef Jo” Michalski of Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies and Nalani James of Eggstravagant, who won the two $1,500 prizes in the fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“We are happy to encourage more businesses to get into the local food system with our contest,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the contest. “Both businesses already are selling products, even with the pandemic, even though these are relatively new businesses. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods into the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope our prizes continue to encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka.”

The Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest has $1,500 prizes for each of two categories, start-ups (less than two years old) and existing businesses. This year all of the entries were in the start-up category, but since Chef Jo already owns Jo’s Downtown Dawgs and has been selling her mud pies to restaurants, her entry was moved to the existing business category so there could be two awards. “We felt both entries were deserving of awards,” Bingham said.

Chef Jo has a long association with food in Sitka, being a former chef with the Westmark and current general manager for the NMS contract with the Sitka School District. She started Jo’s Downtown Dawgs four years ago next to Russell’s, and last summer started making her Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies. A Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pie is double layers of hand-crafted sea-salted caramel frozen yogurt, with a house-made caramel ribbon in the middle topped with home-made fudge sauce and crushed peanuts. She also has made special-occasion mud pies with crushed Oreos crumb crust, and for Valentine’s Day it was Dutch chocolate-raspberry with a ladyfinger crust. She currently is selling her Muddy Mermaid Mudd Pies through the Mean Queen and she sells retail whole pies to the public. She also sells slices of her pie at her food cart.

One of her barriers to being able to produce more mud pies is the lack of a commercial-grade ice cream maker, so she’s only been able to produce two pies at a time. She plans to use her prize money to purchase a commercial-grade ice cream maker so she can increase her production. She also will use it to buy product supplies, and to give a tip to two teenage girls who helped her last summer, twin sisters Michelle and Andrea Winger.

“My challenge at first was how to keep it frozen, and I found a ‘cooler’ that seriously keeps it frozen for 24 hours. YES!” Chef Jo said on her entry form. “The local response has been amazing, and in this time of ‘what’s next’ indulging in a slice of pie is something we all can use.”

Nalani is fairly new to Sitka, but already has been active in the local food scene as a co-manager of the Sitka Farmers Market in 2020 and vendor in 2019, and as an occasional instructor of Sitka Kitch cooking classes. (NOTE: Even though Nalani has an association with the Sitka Local Foods Network, which hosts the Sitka Farmers Market, she did not participate in the contest judging).

Nalani said she plans to use the prize money to help improve her chicken coop’s protection and deterrence from predators, such as rodents and bears. She and her family are moving to a new location in town, so she is in the process of rebuilding her coop, and wants to provide an electric fence perimeter to protect her birds. She started selling eggs through her Facebook page earlier this year, and plans to sell them through the page and at Sitka Farmers Markets during the summer. She plans to hire two intermittent employees to help her in the summer with cleaning the chicken coop and taking care of the chickens.

“Eggs will be a great addition to the fresh vegetables and fish in town,” Nalani said in her application. “There are many essential vitamins in eggs, and protein needed for children and elderly in the area. They taste better, too.”

Last year’s winners were Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company (fresh sourdough bread and fermented foods) and Levi Adams of Forage and Farm (mushroom growing and foraging). In 2019, our winners were Brittany Dumag of Castaway (food cart with Cuban pork sandwiches using Alaska pork) and Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers (fermented foods), with a special youth winner award for Abigail Ward of Sitka Spices (meat and fish rubs). In 2018, the winner was Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals (beach greens and local teas).

Sitka Local Foods Network hosts fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Do you think you have a great idea for a food business or product from Sitka? Do you grow food, fish for food, or cook food in Sitka? The Sitka Local Foods Network is hosting the fourth annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest in an effort to spark local food entrepreneurs so we can make more local food available to residents and visitors. The contest entry deadline is Friday, March 5.

This contest will provide two $1,500 kicker prizes — one for established food businesses and one for start-up businesses (no older than two years) — to help entrepreneurs launch or expand their food businesses. The contest is open to food businesses and individuals making and selling food products in Sitka, Alaska. All food business ideas must be geared toward getting more locally grown, harvested and/or produced food into the Sitka marketplace through sales in grocery stores, the Sitka Food Co-Op, the Sitka Farmers Market, restaurants, or individual marketing (such as a community supported agriculture/CSA or community supported fisheries/CSF program).

“The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to get more locally harvested and produced food into the diets of Southeast Alaskans,” said Charles Bingham, Sitka Local Foods Network board president. “For the past decade we’ve offered a entrepreneurs a chance to sell their produce, bread and fish at the Sitka Farmers Market, grown produce to sell at the market through St. Peter’s Fellowship Farm, and provided a garden education program to residents. We think this contest is the next step toward getting more local food into the Sitka marketplace.”

Last year, we awarded our $1,500 prize for established business to Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Co., who is baking sourdough bread, as well as making sauerkraut and kimchi. Our $1,500 prize for start-up business went to Levi Adams of Forage & Farm, where he is harvesting and growing mushrooms. Our prizes were determined before the Covid-19 shutdowns, but both business owners found ways to develop and build their businesses during the pandemic.

In 2019, we gave $1,500 prizes to Brittany Dumag of the Castaway food cart in the start-up business category and to Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers in the established business category. We also gave a special $250 award to 12-year-old Abigail Ward who entered her Sitka Seasonings business. Brittany made Cuban pork sandwiches (using pork from North Pole) and other food to sell at various places in Sitka, including the Sitka Farmers Market. Tamara planned to ramp up her fermented foods business, but she ended up having some health issues that prevented her from completing her project and she ended up refunding most of her prize money. Abby made spice blends for seafood and other meats, which she sold at the first two Sitka Farmers Markets of 2019 and at other venues.

In our inaugural contest in 2018, we gave a $1,500 prize to Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals in the established business category. We had no entrants in the start-up business category, so no prize was awarded in 2018. Hope used her prize money to hire two interns to help her harvest seaweed and kelp and to help produce her products.

Participants in this contest are eligible and encouraged to enter other food business innovation contests, such as the Path To Prosperity or Symphony of Seafood contests. All participants retain the proprietary rights to their products and ideas. This contest is open to new and existing food businesses in Sitka. Student businesses (such as those fostered by Junior Achievement or similar programs) are welcome.

There is a small $25 entry fee for this contest. All participants (business and individual) must complete and submit our contest entry form by 5 p.m. on Friday, March 5, 2021 (by snail mail so it arrives before the deadline to Sitka Local Foods Network, Food Business Innovation Contest Entries, 408-D Marine Street, Sitka, Alaska, 99835, or by email with the Subject Line of “Food Business Innovation Contest Entries” to sitkalocalfoodsnetwork@gmail.com). Submitting a business plan (up to 20 pages) is recommended, but not required.

Our entry form will have room for you to describe your food business idea in a few paragraphs, but submitting a business plan will give you more room to outline your plans for funding and marketing the idea and will help your overall score. Judging will be based on how your food business idea provides new local food options in Sitka, how novel is your food business idea, how feasible is your food business (can it make a profit and be sustainable), and how professional is your presentation. At some time in late March or early April, the Sitka Local Foods Network may host a pitch presentation, where judges will interview the contest entrants and try samples of the food products. Our judging panel will score your presentation and entry form based on how your idea has a measurable impact on providing local food in Sitka (25%), has the potential for commercialization (25%), provides new employment in Sitka (25%) and fills a need in the Sitka marketplace (25%).

In 2020 we made some changes to the rules, and those changes will continue in 2021. First, each entry now MUST include a sample, itemized budget showing how the business owner plans to use the prize money. Second, each prize winner will sign a winner’s agreement contract before receiving the prize money that lists a series of benchmarks toward getting the product/service to market that need to be met by a certain date or else all or part of the prize money will need to be refunded to the Sitka Local Foods Network. Purchasing items such as masks and hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are acceptable uses of prize money.

If we find additional sponsors, we may add additional prizes and categories (such as fish or farm). Depending on the number of entries and interest of the participants, we may host a reception where contestants can demonstrate their products to Sitka residents. If the reception happens, there will be a chance for people to vote on their favorite products with the winner receiving the People’s Choice Award (this will be separate than the two main prizes selected by our judging panel). We are hoping to find a sponsor for the People’s Choice Award. Note, if our panel of judges determine there isn’t a worthy entrant in one or both categories, then the Sitka Local Foods Network reserves the right not to award a prize. Marijuana edibles are not eligible for the contest.

• Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest Entry Form 2021

Levi Adams, Andrew Jylkka win $1,500 prizes in third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest

Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company baked sourdough bread in Wrangell before moving to Sitka earlier this year.

Levi Adams of Forage and Farm holds white and rainbow chanterelle mushrooms he harvested

One winner plans to cultivate mushrooms. The other is a baker who is selling bread and fermented foods to Sitka residents. Congratulations to Levi Adams of Forage and Farm and Andrew Jylkka of Southeast Dough Company, who won the two $1,500 prizes in the third annual Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest.

“We had some really good entries this year, but these two rose to the top,” said Charles Bingham, board president of the Sitka Local Foods Network, which sponsors the contest. “Even with the coronavirus outbreak, Andrew is actively baking and selling his bread. Levi is still getting his business started, but his entry was the most thoroughly written and researched, by far, of any we’ve received in the three years we’ve hosted the contest. The Sitka Local Foods Network’s mission is to increase the amount of locally harvested and produced foods into the diets of Southeast Alaskans, so we hope our prizes encourage local food entrepreneurs here in Sitka.”

The Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest has $1,500 prizes for each of two categories, start-ups (less than two years old) and existing businesses. This year all of the entries were in the start-up category, but since Andrew already was baking and selling bread and had a history of baking in Wrangell, his entry was moved to the existing business category so there could be two awards. “We felt both entries were deserving of awards,” Bingham said.

In his entry, Levi wrote, “My business will provide the opportunity for Sitkans to experience the healthful and flavorful addition of fresh and dried wild and cultivated mushrooms, both native and exotic to their daily routines. Forage and Farm will strive to meet the growing demand for culinary and medicinal fungi in the community by foraging fresh wild mushrooms in the warm seasons and bringing them to market at the Sitka Food Co-op, as well as distributing through an independent CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) program (Levi’s mother, Lori Adams, operates the Down To Earth Gardens CSA in Sitka). In the colder seasons, cultivated mushrooms will be provided.”

With several scouting trips under his belt, Levi said he is waiting for commercial harvest permits from the USDA Forest Service and the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (state forests). While waiting for the permits, Levi said he plans to gather red alder and hemlock logs so he can cultivate mushrooms on his family’s property. He also is looking to purchase refrigerator and dehydrator equipment to store and process the mushrooms.

“With funds obtained from the Sitka Food Business Innovation Contest I will redouble my efforts toward cultivation. I hope to bring a large number of diverse and nutritious mushroom species to the market as soon as possible,” Levi wrote. “Nothing supercharges my sense of purpose like applying permaculture principles to foraging and farming, and understanding that I can leverage those efforts to enrich and enliven my community. For partnering with me in this, the Sitka Local Foods Network has my deep gratitude and respect.”

Since moving to Sitka, Andrew has been baking about 50 loaves for Sitka Food Co-op deliveries and also selling through social media. He also was scheduled to teach a Sitka Kitch class on baking brioche before the coronavirus forced its postponement. In addition to baking his bread, Andrew has been making sauerkraut and kimchi to sell.

“Southeast Dough Company does not aim to just make a good loaf of bread,” Andrew wrote in his entry. “The goal here is to continue building on the positive food culture that exists in Sitka and strengthen the foundations of our community. I have a strong belief that good food brings people together and allows them an avenue to connect to one another that they may otherwise not find. My chosen medium for this product is bread. The mixing of water, flour, salt, and yeast has been at the heart of society for millennia and the breaking of bread is symbolic of neighbors coming together to build lasting connections.”

Andrew currently is using his home kitchen to bake his bread, and he estimated he could ramp up production to 400 loaves a week in his current kitchen. But he really wants to move into a larger commercial kitchen and possibly hire an assistant.

“This prize will help me take the next step to move out of my home kitchen and into a commercial space. I’m excited to be able to offer my products more consistently to the members of this community,” Andrew wrote. “I would love to participate in the farmers market, and I understand that everything is a waiting game right now so no worries there. I also need to make some decisions as to when I chose to expand with everything that’s going on.”

Last year’s winners were Brittany Dumag of Castaway (food cart with Cuban pork sandwiches using Alaska pork) and Tamara Kyle of Sitka Sauers (fermented foods), with a special youth winner award for Abigail Ward of Sitka Spices (meat and fish rubs). In 2018, the winner was Hope Merritt of Gimbal Botanicals (beach greens and local teas).

Sitka Kitch to host Winter Baking Series class ‘Dumplings With Serena Tang’ on March 24

Learn how to make Asian-style dumplings in the sixth class of the new Winter Baking Series at the Sitka Kitch. The Dumplings With Serena Tang class takes place from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, at the Sitka Kitch community commercial kitchen.

Come learn about the really broad history of dumplings.  Once you understand the basics of how to make your very own dumpling wrappers — the world is your oyster.

In this class you’ll learn how to 1) make dumpling dough, 2) make wrappers, 3) make dumpling fillings, 4) fold different styles of dumplings, 5) cook dumplings in different styles (boiled, steam, pot stickers, etc.). and finally 6) how to make different sauces to accompany your dumplings. We’ll also go over standard East Asian flavor profiles and the locavore reasoning behind why different spices/flavors are in different cultures.

If you have any dietary restrictions or other preferences, let us know.  Dumplings are super versatile, but for learning’s sake we’ll be focusing on Chinese-style cabbage-and-pork dumplings (which can easily become vegetarian/vegan/pescatarian, etc.).

Serena, who works as a law clerk for the Alaska Court System, has a pretty broad culinary background. Growing up in Texas with Chinese-Malaysian parents, Serena has always been curious about the history of food and the reason why certain things are the way they are.  Serena’s been making dumplings with her parents since she was a little kid. She taught a similar class to the Sitka Spruce Tips 4-H program.

The registration deadline is 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 22. Space is limited, so register early to secure your place in the class. We need at least eight students to register and pre-pay to make this class happen. The class costs $40, which is part of our new all-inclusive fee system (you no longer have to pay a class fee to register, then a separate food/supply fee). You can register and pre-pay using credit/debit cards or PayPal on our EventSmart page, http://sitkakitch.eventsmart.com (click on class title). For those wanting to pre-pay with cash or check, please call Chandler O’Connell or Clarice Johnson at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to arrange a payment.

Current (paid) members of the Sitka Food Co-Op are now able to attend the classes for $30 each (the co-op will cover the other $10 of your class fee). Please use the Sitka Food Co-Op ticket when you register and send an email to sitkafoodcoop@gmail.com letting them know you’re in the class. (NOTE, Only one person per Sitka Food Co-op household may use the co-op discount per class. Please name that person when you register so the name can be checked against the co-op membership list. If you register with the discount and can’t attend the class, the person who uses the ticket should be a co-op member or agree to pay the $10 discount difference.)

For more information about the class, contact Jasmine Shaw at 747-9440. We do offer one potential scholarship spot per class for people with limited incomes, so long as we have enough students registered to make the class happen. Contact Chandler at SCS for more details about the scholarship. This class is a fundraiser for the Sitka Kitch.

Also, the registration deadline for the fifth class in the Winter Baking Series, Brioche (and Pizza) With Andrew Jylkka, is 11:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 15, at the Sitka Kitch. This class takes place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, at the Sitka Kitch. Details on other classes in the series will be posted as they become available.

In addition, the Sitka Kitch is hosting a vegetarian Indian food buffet fundraiser and silent auction from 5:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, at Beak Restaurant. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the silent auction closes at 7:30 p.m. Seating is limited for this event, so register early. The cost is $40, with all proceeds going to the Sitka Kitch to promote new classes.

Students should enter the Sitka Lutheran Church through the back entrance (through the alley off Harbor Drive by the old Bev’s Flowers and Gifts location). The door on the right should be open for students to enter. Please do not park in the church’s back parking lot. Please use the public parking lots off Harbor Drive.

The Sitka Kitch also has a new class cancelation policy. If you register for a class, then find out you can’t attend, please email us at sitkakitch@sitkawild.org and we may be able to help fill your slot through our waiting list. If you cancel from the class at least five days in advance (eg, by Wednesday the week before for a Monday class), you are eligible for a partial refund of your class fee, minus $5 for processing (in this case, $35). If you need to cancel with less than five days advance notice, there is no refund.

Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s second Winter Baking Series: Sourdough Bread With Carolyn Rice class

Students learned how to make make sourdough bread during the fourth class of the Sitka Kitch‘s Winter Baking Series, Sourdough Bread With Carolyn Rice (Take Two), on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Sitka Kitch rental commercial kitchen. This was the second time Carolyn taught the class, after several people weren’t able to get into her first class on Jan. 14.

Carolyn is an Alaska Fellow working with the Sitka Conservation Society and USDA Forest Service, and her class taught how to create and feed a sourdough starter, as well as how to bake sourdough bread using a variety of bread flours. She also explained why she named her sourdough starter Xavier and why others should give their starters a name. Students were able to take home a small bit of Xavier so they could build their own sourdough starters, and they each took home a ball of bread dough to proof overnight and bake the next day.

The next class in the Winter Baking Series will be Brioche (and Pizza) with Andrew Jylkka, who just moved to Sitka from Wrangell and bakes for Beak Restaurant. This class will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. (note earlier start time) on Tuesday, March 17, at the Sitka Kitch. The class costs $40 ($30 for Sitka Food Co-op members who are current on their dues, only one discount per family), and the registration deadline is late night on Sunday, March 15.

After that, the next class in the series will be Dumplings With Serena Tang, from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, at the Sitka Kitch. Serena, who is of Chinese-Malaysian descent, will teach Asian-style dumplings (probably cabbage and pork) that can be modified for people with different dietary needs. The class costs $40 ($30 for Sitka Food Co-op members who are current on their dues, only one discount per family), and the registration deadline is late night on Sunday, March 22.

More classes in the series will be announced as their information is finalized.

Also, the Sitka Kitch is hosting a vegetarian Indian food buffet fundraiser and silent auction from 5:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, at Beak Restaurant. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the silent auction closes at 7:30 p.m. Seating is limited for this event, so register early (this event is starting to fill up and will close soon). The cost is $40, with all proceeds going to the Sitka Kitch to promote new classes.

A slideshow of scenes from the sourdough bread class is posted below.

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Scenes from the Sitka Kitch’s Winter Baking Series class Challah With Robin Sherman

Students learned how to make challah during the third class of the Sitka Kitch‘s Winter Baking Series, Challah With Robin Sherman, on Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Sitka Kitch rental commercial kitchen.

Robin grew up in New York City, so she enjoys good challah. Students learned how to make the dough, how to proof the dough, and how to weave it into shape. They also learned why sometimes challah is woven and sometimes it’s in a spiral shape. Challah is a traditional bread of Jewish origin.

The next class in the Winter Baking Series is a second Sourdough Bread With Carolyn Rice class, which takes place from 6-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the Sitka Kitch. This class is full, and people will need to contact Chandler or Clarice at Sitka Conservation Society (747-7509) to get on the waiting list. Carolyn taught another class on baking sourdough bread on Jan. 14 to open the Winter Baking Series, and there was enough popular demand for her to teach a second class.

After that, the next class in the series will be Brioche (and Pizza) with Andrew Jylkka, who just moved to Sitka from Wrangell and bakes for Beak Restaurant. This class will take place from 5:30-8:30 p.m. (note earlier start time) on Tuesday, March 17, at the Sitka Kitch. The class costs $40 ($30 for Sitka Food Co-op members who are current on their dues, only one discount per family), and the registration deadline is late night on Sunday, March 15. More classes in the series will be announced as their information is finalized.

Also, the Sitka Kitch is hosting a vegetarian Indian food buffet fundraiser and silent auction from 5:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18, at Beak Restaurant. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the silent auction closes at 7:30 p.m. Seating is limited for this event, so register early (this event is starting to fill up and will close soon). The cost is $40, with all proceeds going to the Sitka Kitch to promote new classes. A slideshow of scenes from the bagels class is posted below.

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