Jessica Stugelmayer, a Plains native, and Heather Hintze, a 2003 Whitefish High School graduate were part of the team at Alaska TV station KTVA that recently received a prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for their series “Harvesting Alaska.”
Stugelmayer was the co-creator of the series that shares stories of food on the final frontier.
Hintze was the reporter for two of the three winning entries. One of Hintze’s stories was about sustainable yak farming in Alaska; the other piece featured blueberry harvesting in Unalakleet. A third piece in the series, which was part of the winning entry, was reporter Lauren Maxwell’s story about growing produce through the use of “hoop houses.”
Beating out entries from national heavyweights such as CBS This Morning and ABC News in Chicago, the Alaska news team won the category for Best Television Segment at what many refer to as the Academy Awards of the culinary world.
Originally envisioned as a side project, Stugelmayer co-created the show with KTVA’s Gina Romero and Hintze, both of whom also are UM journalism school alumni, along with other staff members.
Stugelmayer grew up in Plains and graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism before moving to Alaska.
Hintze has worked as a reporter and photographer at KTVA since 2011 and has covered a wide range of news and features, including this year’s Iditarod sled-dog race. Last year she covered the Arctic Winter Games in Greenland for the Anchorage-based TV station. Hintze is the daughter of Daily Inter Lake Features Editor and Flathead Journal Editor Lynnette Hintze.
Stugelmayer said the news team wanted to share the personal stories behind Alaska’s surprisingly rich culinary culture.
While most Alaskans now have the luxury of supermarkets, many retained the “homesteader” mentality and still harvest their own fish, meat and produce. Exploring this intimate connection with food, Stugelmayer said, gave the show particular appeal.
Stugelmayer, who is now pursuing a career in freelance food writing, left KTVA shortly before “Harvesting Alaska” won its award, but she attended the awards ceremony in New York City nonetheless.
The mission of the James Beard Foundation is to celebrate, nurture and honor chefs and others who are making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse and sustainable. The awards are among one of the highest honors among food experts.