Number 51 – Page 38
With salt, fire, and skill, the Lakes preserve fish – and tradition
BOB AND JUDY LAKE were both weary veterans of California’s corporate food-service industry a dozen years ago when they learned that Katy’s Smokehouse, a smoked-fish producer in Trinidad, about 300 miles north of San Francisco, was for sale. “We jumped on it,” says Bob. Soon the Lakes had the life they’d longed for, living on a rugged stretch of the Pacific, back in touch with individual consumers, and involved with high-quality products over which they had complete control. The previous owners taught Bob the nuances of the company’s smoking method, handed down to them by Katy State, the smokehouse’s founder (now deceased), who had launched the business in the early 1940s using techniques learned from the local Yurok Indians.
The Lakes buy their catch from Trinidad fishermen, just as State did, and painstakingly follow the original three-and-a-half-day process of brining, drying, seasoning, and both cold- and hot-smoking the fish over alder wood. They cure more than a dozen types of seafood this way and never use chemicals-which, says Bob, make the fish pasty and slimy, with a nasty “petroleumproduct bouquet”. Two years ago the Lakes introduced their peerless canned tuna roasting sweet, firm albacore in the can with a sprinkle of salt-no water, oil, or such fillers as soy protein. It’s a top seller now, along with their aromatic smoked albacore and spectacular smoked wild king salmon. The Lakes like to keep their business personal and will gladly smoke fish brought in by customers. These days, that includes some members of the Yurok tribe who are more than happy to let the Lakes do the work-since they know they’ll do it right. To order, call 707/677-0151 or visit www.katyssmokehouse.com.
photo by Mary Ellen Bartley