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Ask a Chef: Matthew Dolan on Sustainable Seafood and San Francisco Eats

Hilary Deutsch

April 27, 2016

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At his pair of superb San Francisco eateries, Twenty Five Lusk and Tap [415], chef and co-owner Matthew Dolan combines his classic European technique with Northern California ingredients and sensibilities. For his Beard House reprise, Dolan will delight seafood lovers with a decadent and sustainability-minded feast, proving just how delicious conscious consumption can be. In anticipation of his dinner, we spoke to the industry vet about perfecting his octopus preparation, some of his favorite places to dine in the Bay Area, and why he'll eat any and all types of pizza. 

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What is your inspiration behind the menu for this Beard House event?

I wrote this menu based on the products and ingredients that are currently available and that are of superior quality. I wanted to make sure that there was some diversity, but there is a focus on sustainable seafood. As a member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, I am committed to only supporting sustainable fisheries and practices.

What's a dish on your Beard House event menu that you're especially excited about or proud of, and why? 

The Grilled Octopus with Asparagus Coulis, Poached Crayfish Tail, Crayfish Profiterole, and Meyer Lemon Emulsion. I failed quite a few times preparing octopus until I finally nailed it only a few years ago.​ We serve octopus often in our restaurant, and the resulting texture is surprisingly tender.

What’s your guilty-pleasure food?

Pizza. I love pizza. Cold, hot, and for some reason, even when it’s mediocre, it’s pizza and I love it. So I'll still eat it.

Tell us about the last great meal you ate.

Fish restaurant in Sausalito, California, just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. My wife and I had lunch there recently and had a great time—everything is so well prepared, fresh, and delicious. We had butter clam ceviche, dungeness crab, and local asparagus, paired with mason jars of local beer, and sat outside on a sunny day next to this picturesque marina enjoying this great feast. The chef there, Doug Bernstein, is excellent. They also own a wholesale fish company, so we do a little bit of business with them, and their standards of quality and sustainability are next to none other. 

Who's been your biggest inspiration, and what dish would you cook to thank them?

My wife. She is the best person I know and I couldn’t imagine life without her. I would cook her a perfect risotto to thank her. Actually, it’s long overdue that I do just that.

What are the best places to eat in your city these days? 

I’m a big fan of Namu Gaji in the Mission for Korean-inspired fare and Hog Island Oyster Company as well. They're both great examples of the diversity of San Francisco and are also just great restaurants!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you?

When trying to talk me out of my career choice, and realizing he wasn’t getting anywhere, my father finally said, “Fine. Well, whatever you do, just make sure you do it very well.” I use this approach with my cooks quite often.

View all upcoming Beard House events and book your seat at jamesbeard.org/events.

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Hilary Deutsch is editorial assistant at the James Beard Foundation. Find her on Instagram.