Road to Boston: Q&A with Kevin Cottle
At this year's International Boston Seafood Show, the keynote address will focus on sourcing local and sustainable seafood. Kevin Cottle, executive chef at the Farmington Country Club in Connecticut, is giving the address, titled "Local and Sustainable Seafood: Why it Makes Sense." It takes place 14 March from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Cottle talked to SeafoodSource recently about what he'll discuss at the show and his passion for educating consumers about local and sustainable seafood.
Forristall: What is the main message of your keynote address?
Cottle: The main focus is to raise awareness of how simple it is to source local and sustainable seafood. It's so easy to raise awareness for everyday consumers. My focus is to raise awareness and let people know about Web sites and organizations you can get in touch with. Like the Monterey Bay Aquarium has taken a great approach to reaching everyday people through its Web site.
The sustainable seafood movement is becoming more mainstream now, and the more we raise awareness the better off we'll be. It's a movement that's been going on a long time and never really caught steam.
How did you become interested in sourcing local and sustainable seafood?
I've always been a fish guy. I grew up in Cape Cod and am an avid fisherman myself, so fish has always been near and dear to me, but it's only probably in the last few years that I really started to investigate what was going on. It started about four or five years ago with the whole Chilean sea bass thing. One minute everyone loved it, and then we found out how crazily they're being overfished. So once I became aware, I started to do research about what I can do. As a chef, I'm on the front lines. I didn't realize how neglectful I was being until I started doing the research.
As for local seafood, I've worked a lot in Boston, and with all the going-green stuff I realized we have an abundance of great domestic product, so let's try to keep that instead of using imports. That streamlined into my love of fish and love of fresh quality product, and I thought, "Why can't I get it in my own backyard."
Our duty as chefs is that we are feeding people the highest possible quality foods, so why not use local? It helps the community, jobs — it's full circle. We have a moral responsibility to take care of your neighbor as much as yourself.
What can landlocked restaurants that don't have easy access to local seafood do?
They can still get frozen seafood. It might not have come directly out of the water and into their stores, but they can get Marine Stewardship Council-certified products. The MSC are the sustainable leaders in the world for packaging products. They're always putting together things like that for communities. And landlocked states have rivers and streams for local freshwater seafood.
What are your thoughts about programs like the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch and its seafood-buying guide?
I'm a huge component for those programs. MBA gave me thousands of seafood pamphlets to bring with me to [the Boston Seafood Show]. Those programs are crucial to what we're trying to do right now. Nowadays technology is crucial. People can just whip out their iPhones and use MBA's app. Don't have an iPhone? Here's a pocket guide. It's so simple. Keep it in your wallet, and whip it out when you go to dinner.
Consumers need to keep chefs in check by doing the right thing as much as chefs need to educate consumers. What we pass onto consumers, they pass it back to us. That's how I know we're doing the right thing.
You work with the Farmington High School Culinary program. What kinds of things are you doing with the students?
I never had too many people guiding me in the right direction while I was coming up through the ranks, but I've kind of made it my mission. I think it's crucial to pay it back and educate the kids. I teach them the real world atmosphere, how to make a profit and also do the right thing. I teach them what the local area has to offer.