Culinary teachers co-edit whitefish cookbook

Audrey Menninga

Two NMU faculty members have completed a three-year grant project with the publication of a cookbook.

Christopher Kibit, a professor in the technology and occupational sciences department, and Chef Deborah Pearce, an assistant professor in the technology and occupational sciences department, completed a cookbook that contains recipes for Great Lakes whitefish titled “Wild Caught and Close to Home: Selecting and Preparing Great Lakes Whitefish.” The project was funded through the Michigan Sea Grant, a national Sea Grant that promotes the Great Lakes’ fish.

“We did a curriculum for college universities to promote Great Lake fish,” said Kibit in reference to the first year of the Sea Grant project. “The second year I went down to Chicago to a chef conference, and I actually prepared a variety of great lakes fish products for the chefs to try. The third year was the cookbook.”

The cookbook primarily promotes the cooking of Whitefish, which, according to Kibit, are the most harvested fish in the Great Lakes. Lake Superior is the third most harvested lake for the fish, making it popular in the U.P., he said.

Kibit explained that he and Pearce pulled out their own recipes and then contacted other sources for recipes. The sources included guest chefs from a variety of places, including Chicago and Duluth, as well as the owners of fish companies.

“We got in touch with a lot of chefs that we know from around the Midwest, not just in Michigan,” Kibit said.

According to Kibit, the cookbook laid out very differently than most cookbooks. Instead the cookbook is laid out by different cooking processes. There is a chapter for grilled, baked, even barbecued fish.

“I think the reason we ended up doing it was, number one, it would be a little bit different, but secondly everyone has comfort levels in terms of how they cook,” Kibit said. “People can use chapters they’re most familiar with but also to try some new things, in terms of cookery styles.”

Kibit said that the best part of the project was seeing the final project.

“Its got some really solid recipes, it features a lot of different chefs and promotes really what we want—the food industries as well as Great Lakes whitefish,” said Kibit. “We set some goals three years ago and we accomplished almost all of the goals. This is kind of the culmination of three years. So it was really gratifying to see something that people can use that helps promote good food.”

Pearce, also part of the project, was invited to be a chef instructor for the Sea Grant work.

“I could be in touch with students, restaurateurs and other educators,” Pearce said. “I am always ready to take on a challenge.”

Pearce said that she enjoyed the work and that the process was fun.

“I got to contact chefs and fishermen from around the Great Lakes, talk with them, discuss fish recipes and techniques and gather their recipes,” Pearce said. “Then [Kibit] and I culled the many recipes and determined which gave the book the best variety and interest.”

According to Pearce, the book is available for purchase at Phil’s 550 Store on Big Bay Rd, as well online at