We recently had the pleasure of chatting with former Bravo TV “Top Chef” cheftestant Jeffrey Jew about sustainable seafood. He made a splash in season 10, Top Chef Seattle, when he was hand picked by legendary chef Emeril Lagasse in the first episode when he wowed him with his watermelon, scallops, shrimp, salmon belly and avocado gazpacho.
His next encounter with seafood on the show was not quite as lucky and he was sent home for overcooking halibut (more on that below!). But that’s the way the cookie crumbles on Top Chef. Now, Jeff lives in St. Petersburg, Florida and is cooking up plans for a new restaurant venture. He is passionate about living and cooking sustainably, and we got to ask him about his views on sustainable seafood.
How did you first get interested in sustainable seafood?
I have always been interested in local sustainable food. That was instilled in me by my father at a young age. We would always go to the farmers market to get our produce.
Why is sustainable seafood important to you?
Sustainable seafood is important to me because it is the just thing to do and it’s unselfish. We have been bleeding our oceans dry of certain species and it’s time we come up with a better model to save these species
Do you cook wild caught and farmed seafood? Which ones?
What are your go-to species for sustainable seafood?
Moving to Florida has made me change a bit so down here my go to are Gray trigger fish and Red Grouper. When I was in DC, stone bass was my favorite.
How do you incorporate sustainable seafood in your menus?
I try to incorporate it in every seafood dish. Whether it be the main ingredient or additional elements to the dish
Do you think sustainable seafood is something anyone can get into?
Yes, with Whole Foods and other big retailers adopting a sustainable seafood program, I think anyone can make better informed decisions.
Can you suggest a quick recipe for your average family?
Since it is still hot in Florida, any sustainable fish with shaved fennel and arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette is nice and refreshing.
I hope this isn’t a touchy subject, but weren’t you eliminated from Top Chef Seattle because of halibut? Can you tell us about that, please? Would you still recommend halibut as a good fish to eat?
Not touchy at all. Top Chef was an amazing experience. There are a lot of factors you have to deal with when in that kitchen that aren’t in your restaurant kitchen. It’s the Top Chef kitchen for a reason. Halibut is definitely a great fish to eat and I eat it often… Not overcooked of course!
Photo courtesy of Chef Jeffrey Jew (who assures us that the small lane snapper depicted was released!)