49 Voices: Casey Ketchum of Anchorage

Casey Ketchum of Anchorage (Photo courtesy of Casey Ketchum)

This week we’re hearing from Casey Ketchum in Anchorage. Ketchum is the head cook at City Diner. This weekend he’ll defend his 1st place title at Anchorage’s Beer and Bacon Festival.

Listen now

KETCHUM: There is kind of a quintessential Alaska personality. I think it’s part of… we have so much space up here, we’re allowed to develop our personalities bigger than they get a lot of other states. Especially when you’re born up here. You’re used to the freedom of having the room to run and scream and grow.

But when you’re a kid, it’s great. A lot of outdoors, fun things to do. Camping and fishing and hunting and all that good stuff. As a teenager, it’s a little more stifling. Not having the ability to hop in yur car and drive to a different state. I think that’s why a lot of teenagers up here start getting out of the state as soon as they’re able. That’s what I did. I traveled around a little bit, but come back cause it’s home. You know, you get used to it.

I’ve been at City Diner about almost seven years. Got a job — you know, I started applying to a bunch of restaurants ’cause I wanted experience — and they got me a job working on the fryer, and I kept doing apparently good enough for them to keep giving me job opportunities and here I am, now general manager and head chef.

Chef Al Levinsohn, who’s one of the partners in ownership of the diner contacted me and said, “Casey! We’re doing this Beer and Bacon Festival.” We did it and we were lucky enough, or good enough depending on how you look at it, to win. It (was) a BLT soup is what we called it. Bunch of ingredients obviosuly: bacon tomatoes and stuff like that. But what really tips it off, and I don’t know if I’m going to get in trouble for telling you, but red peppers, and then at the end when it’s boiling hot, you throw in chopped lettuce. And the lettuce, the flavor of the lettuce, will actually absorb into the soup, and so it actually tastes like a BLT sandwich.

Upping the ante is tough. It’s such a killer soup. It’s really hard to go one step above. I’m trying to do something savory. I call them a PBBJ: a pimento butter and bacon jam little crostinis. It’ll be kinda interesting. I’ve been playing around with it for about two months so…

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Wesley Early covers municipal politics and Anchorage life for Alaska Public Media. Reach him at wearly@alaskapublic.org.

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