Q&A with: Barton Seaver

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Chef Barton Seaver has helped found several restaurants in Washington, DC that serve exclusively sustainable seafood. His idea is that offering even a few unsustainable options would be a tacit endorsement, and that demonstrating that sustainable offerings are plentiful and delicious presents a model for other chefs and a lure for engaging consumers. He talked to us about his experience as Executive Chef Partner at Hook, a restaurant in Georgetown.

What was missing from the restaurant world that you felt a need to address?

I saw it more as: I just open seafood restaurants, and I’m not going to serve anything but sustainable seafood. It was first and foremost a restaurant, of course, but the idea that certain things would not be served gave me a way to converse with my customers about it.

If a customer asked for Chilean sea bass, I wouldn’t just say “No.” I’d say, “Have you heard about sablefish? It’s delicate and delicious…etc.” I never said “No.” I never even said “Chilean sea bass.”

My goal is to sell them on something they are really going to enjoy, but that they might never have tried before. They might never have thought about sustainability before. But they enjoy the fish and pretty soon they’ll go tell their friends and the next time they go to a seafood restaurant they’ll say, “Hey remember that great sablefish we had? Let’s ask the chef if they have that.” It was about entertaining and engaging the customer.

Read the rest of the interview with Barton Seaver by clicking on the pdf at the right.