“The more you can get yourself closer to the water with that fish, the closer you can be to your supplier. If you don’t do that, and if you don’t become an investigative reporter, you don’t know sometimes what you are getting,” he says. This means he can ask more questions and ask better questions, he says.
Doug Turbush owns Drift Fish House & Oyster Bar in Marietta, Georgia. “You have to have a supplier with traceability,” he says. “Having a good supplier is absolutely the key. You need someone who’s going to be honest with you.”
Turbush works with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and has worked with Foley Fish in Boston for the past 25 years and is very impressed with the supplier. The company has its own Foley Fish School, to which Turbush sends all of his sous chefs for a three-day intensive session. During this, they learn everything about the company’s seafood, including touring the warehouse, going out on boats, and attending a seafood auction.
Wiedmaier is vigilant about checking the seafood that comes into his restaurant—which is all fresh, never frozen. “We look at every single piece that comes in. It’s very important to look at fish carefully—at the eyes, the gills. As a chef these days, I’m a sourcer.
This is vital, Boevers says. “You should try to buy whole fish because if you’re not seeing the fins and the eyes and the tail you are pretty vulnerable to what someone is telling you it is. Restaurants should be buying a lot more frozen seafood. Part of the problem we are having with this substitution is everyone wants fresh fish and the order takers are trying to deliver. So frozen fish reduces the pressure on the supply chain. So restaurants need to evaluate how much frozen and fresh fish they are buying.”
Another important tactic is to take what’s available without demanding specific fish, he adds. “Michael Cimarusti [co-owner and chef of Providence in Los Angeles] takes what comes in today. That is the model we need to see more of. You have a subscription and don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get that day. But if you have a good chef and some flexibility in the menu, you know you’ll be getting local, fresh fish.”