Chefs can direct sustainable seafood movement


Fiona Robinson, SeaFood Business associate publisher and editor

Published on
March 16, 2010

Chefs wield the power to change supplier behavior and should be using that power to increase the sustainable seafood movement. Attendees to the “Teach a Chef to Fish” seminar at Tuesday’s International Boston Seafood Show heard this and more.

With the majority of the seafood sold at restaurants, chefs have great influence on their suppliers, noted moderator Jacqueline Church, contributing writer to the Nourish Network and author of the Leather District Gourmet blog.

“Chefs are where the rubber hits the road, or where the fin hits the water,” she said.

If a customer requests an item such as bluefin tuna that is deemed unsustainable, Barton Seaver, chef and sustainability advocate, offers them a sustainable solution. Chefs are in the hospitality industry and don’t want to say “no” to their customer, he added.

However, “when chef says he can’t take something [such as bluefin] off the menu, he’s selling himself short,” said Seaver.

Trying to find sustainable seafood is a lot of hard work and chefs shouldn’t expect to be 100 percent there all at once, noted Andy Husbands, chef/owner of Tremont 647 and Sister Sorel in Boston.

“For us and sourcing seafood, we’re 85 to 90 percent sustainable on a bad day, 100 percent on a good day. It’s hard when you don’t have the answers,” said Husbands.

“We do the best we can and move in a positive direction. [Sourcing sustainable seafood] doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Information is not consistent, it’s not easy to understand, it’s always changing and is a battle.”

Church shared her list of the “dirty dozen” species that she thinks are unsustainable and shouldn’t be on menus, including shrimp, farmed salmon and bluefin tuna.  However, she added that research changes daily and is fluid.

“What we know today is going to change tomorrow,” she said. “My goal is to have people develop their own expertise.”

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