CL: Food critics sang your praises long before you became an advocate of sustainable fishing. Why get involved?
RM: When I lived in New York, I went to fish markets regularly and noticed that swordfish were getting smaller and smaller. Instead of the 200-pound varieties, they were selling pucks—fish that haven’t reached sexual maturity—because adults were so hard to find.
CL: You confronted this issue head-on, first by taking popular items such as Chilean sea bass off your menu. Are people ever hesitant to try dishes they don’t recognize?
RM: When a common variety like wild salmon isn’t in season, I replace it with a similar one that is. A lot of people haven’t heard of Arctic char, but it’s environmentally conscious and has a pink color and thickness like salmon. I serve it grilled with a smoky salt and horseradish cream sauce on a cucumber salad. Its sustainability story sells, too!
CL: Speaking of stories, you require your staff at RM Seafood to view instructional DVDs from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and to memorize sustainable seafood fact cards. Why?
RM: Many restaurant-goers aren’t aware of overfishing. We show customers that
sustainability not only tastes great but also has an educational value.
CL: How can diners find out which fish are environmentally safe to eat if they’re not dining at RM Seafood?
RM: Carry the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch card with you, or download the Seafood Watch application on your iPhone. Blue Ocean Institute even has a number you can text to find out the present status of a certain fish.
CL: What are the top three nonendangered fish you recommend?
RM: Tilapia, black cod, and Arctic char
CL: How important is it for chefs to spread the word?
RM: It’s important, but it’s the 35- to 55-year-olds guiding this movement. Their generation has enough personal experience to realize the situation and have the motivation to do something about it.
ALSO: Try Rick’s sustainable seafood recipes