By Lauren Kramer, SeaFood Business contributing editor
Published on 27 November, 2013
Pacific Northwest chefs have long championed Dungeness crab, so they were likely not surprised when Bon Appetit magazine ranked the species No. 20 on its list of 25 food trends for 2013. Dubbing Dungeness “The King of the Crustaceans,” the magazine helped extol its culinary virtues around the country. But will it catch on outside the region?
In the Pacific Northwest, diners actively seek Dungeness crab, said Jeremy McLachlin, corporate chef at Salty’s on Alki Beach in Seattle. “It has to stay on our menu because it’s a Pacific Northwest-centric item. People travel here and they want to see it on the menu.” Over the 15 years he has worked with Salty’s, he’s watched the price of Dungeness increase from USD 4.99 (EUR 3.67) a pound up to USD 27 (EUR 19.86). This month he’s paid USD 21.05 (EUR 15.49) for picked Dungeness, USD 11.70 (EUR 8.61) for live and USD 6.78 (EUR 4.99) for frozen sections. McLachlin uses 3 ounces of Dungeness meat in a crab cake dish that sells for USD 17 (EUR 12.51). “People will pay that price for beautiful, fresh Dungeness crab,” he said.
Salty’s features Dungeness in its mac-n-cheese, crab and prawn cocktails, shrimp salad, grand seafood tower, in an open-faced crab melt sandwich and as a 2.5-pound entrée. “It’s one of those things where, if you want to sell something, you just put crab on it and people will love it because they love Dungeness crab so much,” McLachlin said.
Dungeness comprises 10 percent of the menu at Salty’s at Alki Beach and during an average brunch weekend the restaurant goes through about 600 pounds of it. “It doesn’t have the perfect food cost we’re looking for, but we bank dollars, not percentages,” he said.