In due course, the success of our work (and gluttony) is judged by how our partner chefs, restaurants, and organizations inspire change in consumer dining habits. We are continuously asked the question; How are you going to generate measurable change by working with independent restaurants? Can one chef really make a difference? Chefs have a surprising ability to harness and manipulate public opinion (from a culinary perspective), and ultimately prove the belief that sustainability yields flavor and dining decisions will create change. If one chef serves 1000 people a week, and 50% of those consumers leave with an increased knowledge of sustainability, 500 people are going to tell at least 4 of their friends about that restaurant (2000 people a week for each partner restaurant). People talk about food, they are disseminators of restaurant information everywhere. As we have learned through the current “Food Network” era of celebrity chefs, the size of a restaurant is not directly proportional to the reach of this restaurant’s message. On the contrary, quality food is the primary membership into the world of culinary/cause networking.
Chef Michael Poompan at Trachts restaurant only offers cleanfish products. His menu items such as Loch Duart salmon and Laughing Bird shrimp are two sustainable seafood items that taste amazing. His goal is to educate consumers–through the conduit of his service staff, his dining room visits, and special tasting events– on the virtues and connection between quality and sustainability. Upon hearing and tasting this information, his guests log into their taste bank the notion that sustainability can be synonymous with quality. These consumers take this hypothesis to their next dining experience, ask questions about the products and ultimately encourage dialogue amongst chefs regarding quality-sustainable seafood.
Chef Arthur Gonzalez at McKenna’s on the Bay in Alamitos Bay is setting standards for sustainable seafood in an environment once bloated with boring preparations of conventional unsustainable seafood items. Chef Arthur seeks out responsibly raised foods, so you can order anything you want without being concerned as to the environmental/social consequences of your meal. Everything he makes is delicious, so you can be assured that your responsible choice is going to be rewarded with an amazing flavor profile. His contemporary version of an heirloom tomato bisque features sustainable raised shrimp poured tableside. His barramundi dusted with porcini mushrooms and served with truffled spaetzle is fresh and takes you right to flavor country (see pictures in prior post).
Chef Jason Stein, an alumni of major restaurant groups such as McCormick and Schmick’s and PF Chang’s, has taken Parker’s Lighthouse in a direction that promotes sustainable seafood. He has recently partnered with Seafood for the Future, and is making it his goal to educate his thousands of customers on the virtues of eating sustainable seafood by producing quality dishes and drawing a connection between taste and responsibility. Chef Jason prints his menus daily in an effort to feature seasonal fish caught locally.
These chefs own the opportunity to move the needle in the right direction. As our group of chefs and restaurateurs dedicated to Seafood for the Future expands, the tipping point quickly approaches for southern California. In the meantime, comments are encouraged here on our blog. For those of you reading this, the most effective way to promote sustainable seafood is to forward this link to people who can take ownership of this cause, lead us in directions not yet discovered, and help provide the necessary content in order to enrich our bellies with healthy seafood.