I left the Seafood Expo North America with not only a bellyful of sampled delicacies and hair that will probably smell like fried shrimp for several weeks — but also, having spent some quality time with my father-in-law, with a deep love and appreciation for what it means to be married into an Alaskan family...and not just any Alaskan family. So, indulge me, if you will, as I use this week’s note to tout this extra special bloodline.
It starts with Grandpa Robert C. Kallenberg, who pioneered the family’s sea-loving destiny by moving to Alaska in 1926 and began commercial fishing in Bristol Bay on a wooden sailboat. Such was his passion for understanding and protecting the salmon species that he returned to the East Coast to earn a master's degree from Cornell University, with a thesis titled "A Study of the Red Salmon of Bristol Bay with Particular Reference to Teaching its Conservation." He would return to Alaska to plant roots, serve on the Alaska Fisheries Board, and pass on his wisdom to anyone who would listen.
The fish fervor didn’t end with him, as one of his sons Walt — our founder’s dad, and my father-in-law — proudly took the baton, and designed and built a fishing boat with his very own hands, the Mary K, upon which he captained and fished commercially for decades on the wild and blustering waters of Bristol Bay.
As a kid, my husband was obsessed with computers, to the point that he’d take his laptop out to sea with his dad in the mid-90s and use a dial-up modem connected to a sea phone to surf the web. In time, he’d turn his hobby into a career in software engineering. And the more he learned about the global food system and technology, the clearer it became to him that he could use the internet to subvert the status quo and connect consumers directly to sustainably-sourced, wild-caught seafood.
Through the story of this incredible family, I have deepened my understanding of what it means to be true to one’s heart as a matter of legacy; to flex the muscles of resourcefulness as a matter of process; and to forever be unapologetically committed, creative and courageous.
The truth is, I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this clan, and it’s my absolute honor to help carry the torch for their passion into the future.
Live wild...thanks to this crew, I know I will!
Pictured: My father-in-law Walt Kallenberg in Naknek, with a freshly caught sockeye that he would proceed to gut, skin and filet — all with just a pocket knife — and craft into a multi-course meal using only a pad of butter and a toaster oven in our cabin.