INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - Chef Alexander Roberts

Chef Alexander Roberts is a culinary chef of Restaurant Alma in suburban Minneapolis.


Is there a market for farmed fish?

Absolutely. I think it's important to keep in mind that a lot of the fish that we see as normal in our food supply now, just a few years ago weren't very commonly available. And so I think it's just a matter of chefs putting it on the plate, in a restaurant setting, and people becoming familiar with them. It's important to remember that all over the world, people eat these things and they prepare them in a delicious manner. People go out and want to eat good food, and I think that's all people really care about. They're just sometimes afraid to be the first person to try it.

Do you think people can learn to enjoy Carp just as much as they enjoy Blue Fin Tuna?

Absolutely. I think when looking at fish there's usually, there's very few species of fish that don't have a kind of a cousin in flavor or texture. There's always a -for example with Carp, it seems to be almost like a vegetable scented Blue Fin Tuna in a way. It has a similar texture, even color almost a dark color and flavor in terms of the kind of oil content and that kind of thing. So it grills sort of well in a preparation, I've done Blue Fin Tuna with, although not quite as rare. I cook it all the way. I cook it very gently but it had a very similar flavor, especially with smoking.

How did you prepare the Carp?

With the Carp that we served today, I cut it small pieces and took the bones out. The bones are a major part of the fish. With this preparation it was important that the bones were out before smoking it, which I decided to do. And I just simply seasoned the fish with salt and pepper, a little bit of sugar, and I let it sit overnight with that light cure.

And the next morning I smoked it for about two minutes over cedar that I had soaked in water for a couple of days. And then the final steps for preparing the carp, I warmed it through until it was cooked to center in about a 250-degree oven. So, as it dried out it kind of kept its texture and the flavor, you know, kind of fresh. I thought it was important not to get the fat of the carp too high, or that would change the flavor of the fish and make it stronger tasting.

Do you have any opinion about farmed fish versus wild or using a fish-like Carp rather than Blue Fin Tuna?

Well, I think in some ways, chef's kind of lead the forefront of what trends are established for eating, in kind of a round about way. But eventually what chefs are doing now with exclusive restaurants filters it's way down to the kind of TGI Fridays or even the chain type restaurants in a slow way. We've seen that with the kind of eclectic nature of these kind of corporate restaurants that serve neighborhoods all over the country.

And so I think that in regards to changing from wild species that are in very bad shape in terms of their health population, switching to farmed raised fish or other species won't be a problem as long as chefs really feel that they have responsibility to do it-to protect the food supply and to not just do necessarily what's easiest for them or what the customers recognize. But to push the envelope a little bit and bring new things to the table because they are delicious and they are good, number one.

And number two, if it is a good decision for the environment and for the planet. And I think all of us, you know, so much of what drives us to be chefs are these memories of food perhaps, or experiences with food as young people that kind of motivated us to pursue it professionally. And I think we're getting to the point in many ways with many species, some fish and other wildlife, that if we don't slow down, it's not going to be around. And I think the last thing myself and many chefs would like to see is that our children won't ever have a change to try to cook it or to appreciate it's beauty or whatever that might be. So I think it's really our responsibility.