Ask The Trendspotters
Issue No.1
Today's Dinners are Different

Selecting fish that support a healthy environment

Aside from wanting satisfying meals, today’s customers have little in common with those of ten or twenty years ago. And even though restaurants with traditional, bare bones (as in chicken and ribs) American fare are still popular, in fine dining, they’re becoming more of a niche than the rule.

Looking at old menus gives some idea of the revolution that’s been taking place. Boring is out, and innovation is in. Diners in most metropolitan areas are now more

  • knowledgeable about food and its preparation
  • open to experimentation
  • interested in bold flavors and ethnic cuisines
  • conscious of food sources

The result is a national appetite for well-prepared, high quality, interesting, and even politically and ecologically correct food. And itís not surprising, with food frequently in the news these days, not to mention the subject of an entire TV network.

Take fish, for example. If you’re serving endangered species or ecologically unfriendly farmed varieties, you’ll probably hear about it—in sales, if not in words. Overfishing and destructive aquaculture techniques are damaging the ocean environment. Northeast and West Coast diners are particularly sensitive to these issues because their coastlines and fishing industries are at stake.

Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of Savoy Restaurant in New York City and head of the Chefs Collaborative, gives his view on the organization’s website: “Chefs need practical and accurate information on which to base purchasing decisions, so that we can both satisfy our customers and make sure we are participating in preserving healthy fish supplies.” To guide chefs, the Collaborative publishes “Seafood Solutions: A Chef’s Guide to Ecologically Responsible Seafood Procurement."

Tyler Williams, general manager at Farallon in San Francisco, reports that they’re very involved with and aware of the issue of sustainable fisheries. He says that purchasing “sustainably” isn’t a problem for their bottom line at all, even if it somewhat limits the chef’s creativity.

As one of the West Coast’s top seafood restaurants, Farallon leads the way in educating diners and the public at large by selecting and preparing only fish and shellfish on approved lists such as those published by the Monterey Fish Market (San Francisco, CA) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

According to USA Today “Calif. Eateries to Pull Chilean Bass”, many Los Angeles restaurants have pledged to “take a pass at Chilean sea bass” because of its endangered status. They’re substituting other varieties such as striped bass, halibut, or mahi mahi instead. A similar campaign is expected to spread to the nation’s capital as well as other major cities in the fall.

Your purveyor should be able to make recommendations that help preserve healthy fisheries. If not, online sources can provide guidance:

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