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From Sea to Shining Sea

Kyle Bailey, executive chef of the seafood-centric D.C. restaurant The Salt Line, and chef, author, and internationally recognized speaker Barton Seaver held a special event at The Salt Line in late January to celebrate the release of Barton’s new book American Seafood. The gathering included leaders in the sustainable seafood movement and those passionate and curious about responsible stewardship of America’s waters.
A former D.C. executive chef, Barton is director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In this role, as part of the U.S. Culinary Ambassador Corp, and as a speaker on the world stage, Barton spearheads initiatives to inform consumers and institutions about how diet and menu choices can promote healthier people, more secure food supplies, and thriving communities. He has authored seven books about cooking seafood and healthful eating. The latest, American Seafood: Heritage, Culture & Cookery From Sea to Shining Sea, is a guide to more than 500 species and a history of the U.S. fishing industry.
The Salt Line is a New England style fish house on D.C.’s SE waterfront, which opened across from Nationals Park in June 2017. Located in the Dock 79 development, the 3,500-square-foot space boasts an expansive dining room, private dining, outdoor seating, and a riverfront bar. Chef Bailey’s menu draws inspiration from New England classics and showcases his creative talents with seafood charcuterie, crudos, and signature raw bar offerings.
Before the event at The Salt Line, Bailey and Seaver participated in a conversation with FSM.

FSM: How did you two meet?
Kyle Bailey: I first met Chef Barton at the 2009 RAMMY nominations. Both of our restaurants were up for ‘Best New Restaurant,’ and we became friends.
Barton Seaver: Kyle and I were both part of an emerging group of young chefs following in the footsteps of Roberto Donna, José Andrés, and Jeff Buben. And we were among the first wave to set up shop on 14th Street. A closeness and camaraderie quickly grew among all of us in that fledgling renaissance.

FSM: How did you become a leader in responsible and sustainable seafood innovation?
Bailey: I had always had a love for sustainability, starting with my first sous chef job in the Bahamas, where we’d source amazing local and incredibly fresh seafood from our neighbors. I then moved through the best and toughest kitchens in Manhattan before landing at Blue Hill at Stone Barns under Chef Dan Barber, who is a true visionary among the sustainable/responsible farming movement. My love for this program led me to open Birch & Barley in D.C., where I could expand on utilizing my local farmers to produce a sustainability-driven menu. When I opened The Salt Line, I knew I wanted to continue this program with regards to our local watershed.
Seaver: Seafood was my ingredient of choice and a passion I decided to devote my career to. As an identifying pillar of me and my cuisine, I was fortunate to have the guidance and mentorship of the environmental community to understand from the outset the importance of a chef’s choices and the examples that we set.

FSM: What did you hope to accomplish with the Sea to Shining Sea event?
Seaver: It’s an honor to celebrate seafood, but more importantly the communities of working waterfronts that provide such charismatic products for our tables. It’s fishermen that sustain chefs. The invited crowd is a mix of media, thoughtful leaders of the good food conversation, and ardent believers in the power of consumer choices, as well as leaders from the environmental, intellectual, and restaurant community.

FSM: What do you see as the main challenges facing responsible stewardship of America’s waters?
Seaver: The single biggest challenge is that we, as a culture, do not identify with maritime communities, with agrarian communities. When it comes to sustainable seafood, we often limit our thinking to the environment rather than see its entire context as purposed with thriving human communities wholly dependent on resilient ecosystems. It is our effort to create community engagement and offer social license to fishing communities that is the key to developing an engaged constituency of seafood champions. It’s also very important that we work to communicate the importance of fisheries throughout this nation’s history. Because when we understand why seafood mattered to us, then we may begin to decide and communicate that seafood matters to us still.

FSM: Do you think people are “getting” how critical this is? If not, what else needs to be done, in your opinion?
Seaver: As we become increasingly aware of the limitations of terrestrial food production, it is with great enthusiasm that we look to nearly three quarters of this planet, the ocean, as our opportunity to be architects of sustainable food systems that will help to revolutionize food production on a global scale. By speaking of seafood, as opportunity and as an aspirational food, we author a narrative about sustaining our wild capture heritage and how fishermen are an essential asset to the apprentice industry of aquaculture. There is an inextricable link between our past and future.

FSM: What would you ask other restaurants/chefs to do to contribute to the health of America’s waters?  What would you suggest to seafood consumers?
Seaver: Simply put, any solution begins with increased consumption of seafood. Until we as Americans aspire to eat this healthiest of animal proteins, and to use our consumer dollars to invest in sustainable and best practices within the seafood industry, we will not see the widespread implementation of solutions.

Proceeds from the January event will benefit Anacostia Riverkeeper, an advocacy group aimed towards protecting and restoring the Anacostia River for all, and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, which strives to create a self-sustaining oyster population through ecological restoration that expands economic opportunities in the Chesapeake and coastal bays.

About the Author

LISA KEATHLEY is the managing editor of Foodservice Monthly.

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