Stan Frankenthaler is the Proprietor and Chef at Salamander Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Do you think that your customers are becoming more aware about where the fish that they eat is from? Do you think that consumer awareness creates positive incentive for the industry to develop more sustainable practices?

Absolutely. With the concern that the consumer is starting to show about food and where food comes from today, it's becoming more economically important for the producer to be able to say to people like me or to the general public that their food was brought to table in a sustainable manner.

Do you think that this awareness might help to foster better fishing practices? Is there a way that the consumer can come to the table and participate in bringing about sustainable fishing practices?

As the consumer becomes more educated about the issues of sustainability around our marine resources, the consumer can play a greater role in practices that fishermen and aquaculturists employ in bringing this product to us all.

I think that the issues of sustainable harvesting are true throughout all areas of food production, whether that be organic or sustenance farm and agriculture, whether that be in raising cattle aquaculture endeavors and also in the management of wild fish resources.

I got the impression that it was helping your business, that it was central to how you market yourself. I noticed that you have a logo that says, If it isn't fresh, it isn't legal. Is it that your prices are perceived as too high by a lot of diners?

In a fine dining restaurant it's, you don't want to make your customers feel like they are in the classroom or in the principal's office. It's hard to make customers change their habits if you're making them feel that they've done bad or done bad in the past. We hope that our customers will taste the difference. Food always elicits an emotional reaction from people.

Flavors evoke memories, conversation, inspiration, sharing - all civilizing things that are passed across the table. If we can capture one or our guests in the moment having that epiphany over good food, they are very open to the suggestion that the reason this food tastes the way it does it was cared for in a very responsible manner by the people involved in getting bringing it to you starting with the farmer, the rancher, the orchard tender, the beekeeper, whoever it might be. Their hand plays a really important role in how that food tastes at the table.

Could you give us a couple examples of a certain type of fish that you are buying consciously from a certain source and why?

In the summertime we take great pleasure in serving locally caught bluefish and striped bass. Striped bass is one of the success stories where we really managed the stock and they are very prolific. They have made a strong comeback. They're very close to our hearts and the local fishing industry and the quality of the seafood is just impeccable.

We like to serve halibut in the springtime. We served a fair amount of cod this spring and into June. We love cod. We know several cod fishermen who are very concerned about the management of the cod stocks and conservation efforts around Georges Bank. We would like to see more cod fishermen return to work. We hope that our purchasing habits help that to come about. There are so many great things. We buy this beautiful handpicked crab meat from Maine, from a couple of companies that are based around Portland, Maine.

For years and years now, we have been buying clams and oysters from a family in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. The husband and wife studied marine biology in the Midwest and decided that lab research work wasn't going to be their life and they were going to do it in the field at that time the state was offering land grants, if you will, to aquaculture ventures, and this is some example of very green farming, if you will.

Every spring we travel down to Wellfleet and we plant clam seeds. We like to think that two years later those are the little necks that we planted. When they deliver here, they always leave with loaves of bread and cookies and sandwiches for the road and food to take home for mom. So we have very strong relationships with these people.

What comes across really clearly from what you're saying is that all you are doing is making sure that the seafood is produced in a good way, and that it is easy to do, that other people could do it easily too. Would you agree that if more people did it, there would be more of a demand, like what has happened with the boost in organic agriculture?

We feel that it's very important that we know the source of the seafood that we're buying. We feel more comfortable knowing where the seafood has come from and who's handled it along the way. It's not a huge amount of extra work, but it does take some extra effort. But I feel that it's very worthwhile. Into those efforts we would certainly create economic incentive, market incentive to all parts of the industry to do a better job environmentally.

Something that has become of great importance to us here at the restaurant is to really know where our seafood comes from and who's handled it along the way. It takes some extra effort to find this out, but I think if more people make that extra effort, and it's not a tremendous amount of additional work, we would create market incentives to the industry to do a better job, to act more responsibly.

What kind of salmon you're getting and why?

Salmon has become a fish that has increased so greatly in popularity that the production methods have really been questioned. Of course I think that everyone we on the East Coast is aware that Atlantic salmon stocks have been grossly depleted and decimated. The farming practices now that raise salmon in aquaculture have been greatly scrutinized. There's good, bad and ugly.

We have been fairly successful in seeking out a company regionally based here that employs very progressive and very open-minded practices that they use in farming their salmon. This company employs a lot of local fishermen from their local community, as not only part of their labor force, but as part of the group that guides their practices and guides their company. And we feel very good about supporting those efforts.

Do you feel it's true that this company is able to minimize disease and therefore not use as many chemicals?

Some of the reasons that we choose this particular aquaculture company for farm-raised Atlantic salmon that we serve here at this restaurant are because their farming practices have low density of population. Low density is really key. Also, where they locate their net pens. They are in very active moving waters, cold temperatures because their fish are not as subject to disease and pests. So therefore they don't have to treat their salmon with pesticides and with antibiotics as a routine means of operation as other companies have to. They are willing to produce less salmon to produce better salmon in a better environment and I believe that that's one of the keys to successful and sustainable aquaculture.

We know several local fishermen and one of the things they tell me is that their fishing patterns have changed as aquaculture has grown up, especially salmon along the eastern seaboard and into Canada and Nova Scotia and Bay of Fundi because of these issues of pesticides in the water. They tell me that the wild fish stocks won't even go near those pens anymore. They're no longer swimming by there.

One of the reasons that fishermen say that there are no longer any cod around the Bay of Fundi is because of the proliferation of salmon aquaculture farms and what's being put in to the ecosystem locally there as a result of these treatments of antibiotics and pesticides and feed decomposition of feed and effluence, that the wild stock is not interested in that water anymore.

In some sense the wild fishermen should play more of the role of guides in some sort of sense. They certainly have a first-hand knowledge of how the changes have been occurring in the water. And the local fishermen here in New England are not happy to dump bycatch, they're not happy to knowingly put fish overboard that are going to die in the water within their nature. It really rubs them the wrong way.

Fishermen's wives are good about it, too. They're sometimes more vocal than the men. Gloucester and New Bedford, when they imposed restrictions a few years ago, it was really fishermen's wives who were on the picket line.

How about shrimp? Can you give us an overview of how you select your shrimp?

Shrimp in restaurants is such a popular menu item that we almost have to have shrimp the majority of the year. During the winter months, sometimes into April, we're often able to serve ocean-caught Maine shrimp around here. They are small red, sweet. Shrimp that generally swim in deeper waters. As the temperature becomes colder and colder, the shrimp are driven closer to shore and they're able to be net-caught by fishermen.

Outside of that season, we buy shrimp from other sources. We like one or two companies in particular. They do certify their shrimp as turtle-safe and they generally represent a cooperative of farms. They have made commitments -- attestation, if you will -- of sustainable practices.

And certainly in countries like Mexico, these practices like shrimp farming have become more and more of a concern to the government. We hope that we are again making a good choice to support a good producer, good distribution network, where we support good practices in shrimp production both farmed and wild-caught.

I grew up in Savannah, Georgia and when I was a kid, the shrimping industry collapsed there. And I saw firsthand the effect that the collapse of a resource could have economically on a community. Several kids that I went to school with, their families lost their boats. It was a terrible thing to witness and it really left a strong impression on me as a teenager. It's something that I have been concerned with for a long time.

I would say that something for all of us to consider and to be concerned about and be aware of is the plight of the family fisherman in this country. And I think that something like the "Give Swordfish a Break" campaign has some very positive intentions, but I think we have to be really very careful about who is bearing the brunt of this consumer reaction, consumer furor that we're looking to inflame. And if it is the family fishermen, I'm not so sure that that is the best place to put the burden.

Big factory fleets and trawlers harvest most of the swordfish harvested in the world. And the majority of the fish quota, internationally, is given to countries other than the United States and in Canada. A lot of swordfish that's served in restaurants in this country are not caught by smaller boats. These small fishermen are concerned about their livelihoods and future generations. And they will use sustainable methods and we put them to the test, economically, in the sense of putting food on the table for their families. And I really do feel that we need to be very conscious and concerned about our small-scale fishermen in this country.

Would you like to speak about the chef's group you're a part of and what the ethic is?

I'm part of a national organization called the Chefs Collaborative -- not only of chefs and restaurateurs, but also of farmers and fishermen and distributors and community members, as well -- that are concerned about the issues of sustainable food production and the quality of our environment and the ecosystem. So we work towards educational goals and the support and development of local and regional food economies. The things we have talked about -- market incentives -- opportunities for growers and producers and fishermen to have stronger local markets for foods that they can bring to the table.