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
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
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
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
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
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
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.