Reel Talk with Beard Award Winner Tom DouglasC+C Communications
October 18, 2017
October is National Seafood Month, so for the next few weeks JBF and our Smart Catch partner, C+C, are highlighting chefs cooking on the front lines of sustainable seafood. Below, the team at C+C catches up with Seattle’s JBF Award–winning chef Tom Douglas on how a home economics class led him to become a chef and restaurateur, his favorite dish on the menu, and much more.
Every chef has their reason for joining the Smart Catch program. For chef Tom Douglas, sustainability is an integral part of his entire organization, from how his team is treated to where they source ingredients. As he puts it, “sustainability is about more than just a piece of fish.” So, for Douglas, joining Smart Catch was just the next logical step.
Smart Catch launched in June and is designed to help both chefs and diners access a greater variety of sustainable seafood options. Chefs who sign up commit to ensuring that more than 80-percent of the seafood on their menu is sustainably sourced. We’re jumping into our second round of Reel Talk with executive chef, restaurateur, author, and radio talk show host Tom Douglas to find out why sustainable seafood is a personal cause for him—and what he can’t leave the grocery store without.
C+C: Why did you want to become a chef?
Tom Douglas: I really enjoyed my home economics class in high school and thought I would give the profession a try when I turned 17. Low and behold, I took to it like a fish takes to water, as they say.
C+C: Why is sustainability important to you?
TD: Working to make something sustainable is part of the process of leaving the earth the way you found it, which is how I try to act throughout my life.
C+C: What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned as part of the Smart Catch program?
TD: I think it’s good to look at your organization from top to bottom, rather than to just look at trends or the “hot new thing.” The biggest takeaway from the Smart Catch program was the reminder to really look at every seafood purchase we make: not just salmon or tuna, but every single item, and make sure we’re ordering the best and most sustainable products.
C+C: What is your favorite sustainable seafood dish right now?
TD: Bristol Bay wild salmon, steamed with a bit of ginger and Washington Chardonnay, plus a creamy pat of butter, served over aromatic star anise sticky rice and sizzling garlic bok choy that we serve at our Tanakasan restaurant.
C+C: What do you think is the most common misconception about sustainability and seafood?
TD: Tracking seafood is both a misconception and a program. There is no reasonable way to track seafood that is frozen around the earth at this time. Your Pollock fillet, caught in Alaska, easily could have been processed in China, then put on a ship back to Russia, then back into the supply chain. We need significant improvement on traceability.
C+C: Knowing that the majority of Americans consume seafood at restaurants, what would you recommend those who are inspired to cook at home start with?
TD: First, I would recommend the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch app, so they know they’re buying sustainable seafood to begin with—then I would buy local (support your local fisherman!) and buy wild.
C+C: If you could have an unlimited supply of one ingredient what would it be?
TD: Wild salmon.
C+C: If you could give one piece of advice to an upcoming chef, what would it be?
TD: Your job is much more than writing a menu and cooking on the stove-top. Sustainability runs deep within an organization: how you treat your team, how you buy products, how you help your community. My advice is the simple fact that sustainability is about your entire business model, not just about a piece of fish.
C+C is a communications firm that specializes in mission driven campaigns. Find out more at cplusc.com.