Sustainability Hits Top Chef

by Gavan on October 22, 2009

Top Chef

Did anyone catch last night’s Top Chef? You’d think I’d be all cheffed-out by the end of a long day of cooking but this season is, I think, one of the best yet. It’s chock full of talented chefs as well as providing some excellent messages, such as last night’s episode. The guest judge was Rick Moonen, owner of RM Seafood located in The Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. If you don’t know who this guy is, make note because he is what many of us chefs aspire to do: passionately cook sustainable food. In this case, Rick’s passion lies in seafood. As stated on his website, “Passionate doesn’t even begin to describe how Rick feels about the importance of buying, selling and serving seafood that only comes from abundant wild populations or has been caught or farmed in a sustainable manner.” He doesn’t just talk the talk, he puts his commitment to this cause on the menu refusing to sell favorites like Chilean Sea Bass, Japanese Hamachi, Monkfish and Grouper because of their dwindling populations. Kudos to Top Chef for highlighting Rick and his mission though they could still learn more lessons from him. It used to piss me off when I’d see contestants buying Chilean Sea Bass from Whole Foods (bad on you WF for selling it!)
NOTE: As of today 10/28/09 a comment from Stephen informed me Wholefoods are now re-introducing a sustainably fished Chilean Sea Bass to their stores. Please see his comment below and check the great links he added.
In this day and age Top Chef needs to get on board in many areas (lose the produce plastic bags, promote grass-fed meats, etc). They have a huge audience so they need to take advantage of their influence but that’s another post!

Before I knew much about Rick, I had the pleasure of dining in his restaurant. It probably marks as THE best dining experience I’ve ever had. As you can imagine, I can be a bit picky when it comes to eating out, but this upscale eatery was spot on from start to finish. The Missus and I were enjoying our first anniversary (before we tied the knot—must be an American thing but I wasn’t complaining about taking a trip to Vegas!) so we booked a romantic table at RM not knowing much about it. I think it was referred to us since we both love seafood. We sat upstairs dressed to the nines in a not-so-crowded room. Not sure why it was so quiet that night but the service certainly didn’t lack in spite of. Right off the bat we were well impressed because they changed the Missus’ white napkin to a black napkin so she wouldn’t get the white fluff on her black dress. Something that simple made a huge impression on us (the saying is true–it’s the little things that count). I’m pretty sure each of us ordered a tasting menu, which was the business. Then we got a tour of the kitchen. Through the sliding glass doors we went into the spectacular kitchen. What a great night!

I can definitely appreciate Rick’s passion here and commend him for sticking to his guns and giving like minded peeps a place to eat, conscientiously.

It’s never been easier to find out what fish are considered sustainable. Nearly a year ago I wrote a post called “Phone for Fish” which was about using your cell phone to find eco-safe fish via texting, providing instant sustainability info when you need it. Not only does Blue Ocean Institute provide this service, they also have a great website dedicated to increasing consumer understanding in order to drive demand for sustainable seafood. I often reference my seafood guide while shopping or out eating sushi (they will send you a free copy in the post or you can download it). That way I am not only buying sustainable seafood, I’m using my recipes here to show you which seafood to use. I also reference the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector website, which is more of the same, and thanks to Rick’s site I’ve discovered more useful links, including Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch regional guides, which contain the latest information on sustainable seafood choices available in different regions of the U.S. (I’ve put all these links under the Links section of this site and even posted a widget for fast reference.)

If you live outside the US and have links to regional sites like these please leave a comment with the info. Let’s help each other around the world to make better sustainable choices!

PS–Cheers to Price Albert of Monaco for being the first territory in the world to ban Bluefin tuna, taking this regional favorite off the menus and banning their sales in Monaco’s shops and restaurants. I think a little more research is in order just to verify that this is indeed true so I’m accepting all donations to get my arse over there!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

stephen October 28, 2009 at 2:37 am

I shop very little at whole foods since we have better markets in San Francisco but I did want to correct you on Chilean Sea Bass in particular. Check out these two links:


Gavan Murphy aka the H.I. October 28, 2009 at 6:34 am

Great comment Stephen. Thanks a lot. I added a note in my post to update the info.
Much appreciated.

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