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Reel Talk with JBF Award Winner Jen Jasinski

C+C Communications

November 30, 2017

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Photo: Rachel Adams Photography

The holiday season is nearly upon us, and that means a lot more time spent around the dinner table. Whether you’re planning on setting the table yourself, or dining out with the whole family, JBF and our Smart Catch partner, C+C, are serving up inside scoops from chefs cooking on the front lines of sustainable seafood. Below, the team at C+C catches up with Colorado’s JBF Award–winning chef Jen Jasinski on her love of rockfish and longnose skate, the delicious taste of garden-fresh produce, and how Smart Catch has changed her perspective on sustainability.

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Chef Jen Jasinski was first introduced to the taste of true, freshly grown produce as a kid, playing in her family’s garden. The sweet flavors of corn and peas left an impression on her that stuck. Since those early days, she’s incorporated her love of fresh ingredients and sustainability into all her ventures. When the Smart Catch program offered the opportunity to dive deeper into sustainable seafood sourcing, chef Jasinski immediately climbed onboard. 

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. Below, we share our fourth round of Reel Talk with Euclid Hall, Rioja, Bistro Vendome, Stoic & Genuine, and Ultreia’s chef Jen Jasinski. 

C+C: What is your earliest food-related memory?

Jen Jasinski: My earliest food-related memory is a combination of things. It is no secret that my mom was not a good cook. But, Stan, who was my mom’s boyfriend for eight impressionable years of my life, was a good cook. Being from Kentucky, his family had a farm—and so we planted a huge garden in our backyard in Santa Barbara. Not only did I love planting and playing in the dirt, but I soon learned to appreciate the flavor difference between store-bought and super-fresh, just-picked produce. My mom used to yell at me for sitting in front of the pea plants and eating ALL the peas, raw, right there in the garden. I learned some things are just better when just picked, like corn, which tastes like candy raw off the cob.

C+C: Why did you want to become a chef?

JJ: The decision for me to become a chef was so ridiculous and silly. I was a music major. I played woodwinds, flute, clarinet and obo. I thought I would move to New York and be in an orchestra. As I started cooking in high school and it progressed into something I was really good at, it dawned on me: I could be a starving artist in New York, or I could be a well-fed cook. So, since I liked eating so much, I chose the chef gig.

C+C: Why is sustainability important to you?

JJ: Sustainability is important because, as a chef, I have an obligation to take care of this craft. That entails teaching and promoting techniques and methods that will enable us to enjoy our bounty for years to come. My mom was the role model in my life and she ingrained in me our responsibility as humans on this earth to never take anything for granted. Anything can be taken away. So, if we start a conversation about these issues, we can make a difference. It’s a marathon, not a race. We need to act for the long haul.  

C+C: What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned as part of the Smart Catch program?

JJ: The Smart Catch program has been so enlightening for me. I thought it was just about species and location. The most important thing I learned, and am still learning, is how much the catch method matters. I had no clue about all the different methods and their impact on our seas.

C+C: What is your favorite sustainable seafood dish right now?

JJ: My favorite sustainable seafood dish now is West Coast groundfish. I love longnose skate, but rockfish is also making a big play on my menus.

C+C: What do you think is the most common misconception about sustainability and seafood?

JJ: I think that chefs and consumers think certain species are fine, and don’t understand catch methods can be the reason that a species is not sustainable.

Jasinski's paella gnocchi, recipe below.

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?

JJ: Cooking at home is tough and seafood can be expensive. I might suggest starting with clams and mussels, as most of those are sustainable. They are all cultivated and it’s hard to screw them up.

C+C: If you could have an unlimited supply of one ingredient what would it be?

JJ: Man, this is tough. If it was meat, it might be duck—I adore duck. For fish it would be tuna, I wish it weren’t so overfished. I love great tuna. But I just won’t buy it for sustainability reasons.

C+C: If you could give one piece of advice to an upcoming chef, what would it be?

JJ: You need to LOVE this business, and have it in your veins to succeed unless you are extremely lucky. A nicer way to say that may be, get ready for the long road you are embarking on—it is tough, and you need to be tough.

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Get a taste of Jasinski's cooking with her recipe for Paella Gnocchi.

Learn more about Smart Catch.

C+C is a communications firm that specializes in mission driven campaigns. Find out more at cplusc.com.