Chefs get up close and personal at the source
Until recently, Jasper Mirabile refused to eat farmed fish. The owner and chef of Jasper’s Ristorante in Kansas City, Mo., had no respect for aquaculture and looked down on the whole concept. Then he was invited to tour a white bass and hybrid-striped bass hatchery at Hubbs Sea World Research Institute in Carlsbad, Calif., to view the offshore grow-out operation at Pacifico Aquaculture, located off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico. His viewpoint changed completely.
“I have so much respect now for what they are doing there, and I have no qualms about serving these fish to my guests,” he said. In Ensenada he and other chefs invited by the International Aquaculture Program of the U.S. Soybean Export Council watched as divers harvested a few of the fish for the group.
“After seeing how these fish are raised and hearing about all the research involved, it really hit me when I tasted this fresh fish that there’s absolutely no difference in quality between farmed and wild fish,” Mirabile said.
As soon as he got home he reached out to his suppliers to source the fish for his restaurant and hoped to include Pacifico’s farm-raised white bass and hybrid striped bass. “I’m very much more open to aquaculture now,” he says. “The industry has made some great strides in the last 20 years and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
When chefs travel to see the source of their products it can make all the difference in the world, says Rex Hale, who was also on the trip. The corporate executive chef at RHM Hotels in St. Louis gained a deeper understanding of how things are handled.