On the spot: Michael Madigan, Farm 2 Bistro

Published on
April 12, 2010

Consumers are looking for more sustainable, local restaurant food, and Michael Madigan aims to fill that niche. Madigan, owner and executive chef of Farm 2 Bistro in Nutley, N.J., recently added two additional locations. The second Farm 2 Bistro opened in Rockaway, N.J., in February, and the third is slated to open 1 May in Knowlton, N.J.

The Farm 2 Bistro concept has been successful, said Madigan, because the areas are "starved" for restaurants that offer sustainable food choices. The seafood featured at Farm 2 Bistro is 100 percent sustainable, while a majority of the produce, dairy and other products is local, fair trade and organic.

Blank: Why did you choose to offer 100 percent sustainable seafood?
Madigan
: Sustainability is more important than local and 100 percent organic. The simple choices in what you buy can make a difference. Even before I opened Farm 2 Bistro, I didn't buy Chilean sea bass, because it is [threatened]. Instead of Chilean sea bass, U.S. rainbow trout is a really good. I would choose U.S. farmed tilapia before swordfish, and wild salmon before orange roughy.

What is involved in sourcing sustainable seafood?
We look for fish that follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium guidelines, and many purveyors and distributors also have third-party certification. We buy scallops, U.S. farm-raised tilapia, rainbow trout, wild salmon and Gulf shrimp. We always stock tilapia — it is an herbivore, so it doesn't need fish byproduct — and wild salmon. We buy from Monarch Seafood Corp., Restaurant Depot and the Lobster Place. These are decisions that every restaurant owner can make without breaking the bank. Buying sustainable seafood is a win-win for the restaurant and the consumer.

Which seafood items do you serve?
We have nightly specials that include Seared Scallops with Risotto and Lemon Vinaigrette; U.S. Farm-Raised Tilapia with Panko and Almond Crust, served over local baby spinach with local cheese; and Broiled Salmon with Rice Pilaf. All these dishes can be sold for price points under USD 20 each and can be high-profit items, if portioned correctly.

What seafood items are you adding to your menu?
In May, we are going to start a USD 5 appetizer menu with crab and lettuce rolls; trout tacos with rice and beans; and trout, shrimp and scallop ceviches. You can get two appetizers for USD 10. The whole small-plate movement is big — whether it's Subway, Applebee's or T.G.I. Friday's, they have all switched to small plates. You have to break away from the pack and offer the better product at the better price.

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