Q&A: Seafood taps into gastro pub trend

Published on
June 28, 2011

A Winter Park, Fla., restaurant’s moniker belies what is really inside. Although it sports some pork dishes, around 50 percent of the dishes at The Ravenous Pig, a gastro pub eatery, feature fresh seafood.

After training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and working at top restaurants in New York and other cities, the husband and wife team of James and Julie Petrakis opened The Ravenous Pig in their hometown of Winter Park. Chef James Petrakis recently talked to SeafoodSource about the growing gastro pub trend in the United States and the restaurant’s sustainable seafood sourcing.

Blank: Why are we seeing more gastro pubs — pubs that specialize in high quality food — in the United States?

Petrakis: The gastro pub trend started in London. When the young chefs went out after work, the pubs gave them good food along with their pint of beer; it evolved into what it is now. Whether it is our economy or people not wanting a whole fine dining experience, gastro pubs have become popular. It is about having good ingredients in a more casual atmosphere, at a somewhat lesser price. When we started, we were one of the first gastro pubs here [in Orlando]. My wife and I were cooking in New York City at fancy places and realized that we like nice food, but we are pretty laid back. 

The Ravenous Pig’s menu features a large amount of fresh seafood. What type of seafood are you serving?

The majority of the seafood on the menu is sustainable. Currently, we have Florida swordfish on the menu and U.S. yellowtail snapper — one of the few [snappers] that is not overfished. We are getting Irish trout as well as bluefin tuna from Australia. The bluefin tuna is living in its natural habitat, and their nitrates are not killing the ecosystem around them, such as what happened with the farms in South America. Cobia is running hard right now in Florida, and it is not [threatened]. It is not overfished and we are offering it at the proper time. The most important thing for us is that fish is caught by a drag line [and not nets]. 

Which seafood distributors and suppliers do you reply on for supply?

Locally, we use Gary’s Seafood Specialties, Central Seafood Co., Cape Canaveral Shrimp Co., Wild Ocean Seafood Market and Lombardi’s Seafood. We use a lot of shrimp products and Clean Fish products from Sea to Table, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. They have a lot of different fishing outlets in the Carolinas, Alaska and other places that have been certified by the Clean Fish Alliance.

How important is it to educate your guests about sustainable seafood?

The customers are knowledgeable today and have a lot of questions. I am trying to educate my customers on sustainable seafood, and how we need to keep it around for the next generation. One of my jobs as a chef is to provide information and the proper products. We take the time to read and source things we should be eating. We do a lineup every day with servers to talk about new products [so they can communicate the sustainability message to guests].

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