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Restaurateurs go to the salty source of catch

The Crab Catcher is known for its high-quality, fresh-from-the-salty-ocean seafood. What is less well-known is that many of its dishes are pulled from the sea by TV stars.

Crab Catcher owners Jeani, Jerry, Justin and Jon Burwell traveled to Dutch Harbor, Alaska last October with a tour group comprised of chefs, restaurant owners and market buyers to meet the crews and captains that harvest the Bering Sea.

Several of the individuals the Burwell family met have gained notoriety for their portrayal on the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” show.

“I’ve been watching this show since before it was called the ‘Deadliest Catch,’” said executive chef Jon Burwell, 31. “I’ve seen every show at least 10 times.”

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Jon and Justin Burwell described Dutch Harbor as a “small island with a lot of little waterways.” The land is dry, brown tundra with rolling hills. There were two bars and one hotel: The Grand Aleutian Hotel.

Getting to the fishing village is an adventure in itself. After flying to Seattle, the Burwells flew into Anchorage, where they had an overnight wait for the next flight to Dutch Harbor. The 15-seat prop plane spent three hours over the Bering Sea before landing on an icy runway.

Visiting with the crab-catching celebrities garnered a deep respect and appreciation from all of the Burwells, who have owned and operated the Crab Catcher for 29 years.

“It’s a special breed of people to do what they do,” Jon Burwell said. “They were just as honored to meet us because we support their family and they support our family. We’re the final end of their process. Without them doing this, our restaurant wouldn’t be as great as it can be.”

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During the tour, the Burwells had a chance to work and play with men from several “Deadliest Catch” ships, including the Hillstrand brothers from the Time Bandit, The Arctic Sea, the Cornelia Marie, the North American and The Maverick.

“They threw pots for us and showed how they pull them (in),” Jon Burwell said.

While on the ship, Justin and Jon Burwell got in on some of the pranks that the fishermen are known for on the show. After crew members of the North American put marbles on top of the Time Bandit’s pilot house, driving the Hillstrand boys crazy with the constant rolling and clinking, the Time Bandit crew prepared for retribution with several dozen eggs. The North American took her hits good-naturedly.

“The funniest part for me was egging,” restaurant manager Justin Burwell, 26, said.

The crab connoisseur tour also included a visit to the plant where the ships’ hauls are processed.

“It was probably the best trip I’ve ever been on, business-wise,” Jon Burwell said.


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