Fresh Thoughts: Sustainable Seafood Q&A with Chef Chris Becker
Published May 14, 2013
About next week's featured Fresh Thoughts chef, Chris Becker of Fleet Street Kitchen
A Baltimore native and veteran of several of the city's most highly regarded restaurants, Chef Chris maintains deep
relationships with local farmers, foragers, and fishermen. His contemporary American cuisine at Fleet Street Kitchen is defined in conjunction with the seasonal produce of Cunningham Farms, the restaurant owner's farm in Cockeysville.
A graduate of the Baltimore Culinary Institute, Chef Chris spent time in the kitchens at The Brass Elephant, Linwoods, and The Wine Market in Locust Point. He was noted as one of the top "Chefs to Watch" by Baltimore Magazine and identified as one of "Ten Professionals Under 30 to Watch" by the b newspaper.
At Fleet Street Kitchen, Chef Chris combines both traditional and modern techniques, creating elegant dishes that reflect his intense devotion to his craft.
Can't wait for next week's dinner? We chatted with Chris about how sustainable seafood is changing the culinary scene throughout the mid-Atlantic region:
What’s your favorite sustainable seafood ingredient to prepare?
Because I'm new to Maryland seafood, I'm really excited to start using soft-shell crab, which is one of Maryland's local sustainable seafood products. It's a really interesting ingredient and very versatile in the way it can be presented, so I'm sure you'll see it on the menu at Fleet Street Kitchen soon.
How is sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?
I think more and more chefs are becoming conscientious about sustainable seafood and this in change is influencing our guests to think about it as well. Because we're by the Chesapeake Bay, I think it's easier for people to make the connection between how we fish and the seafood we serve. People are definitely appreciating it more. At Fleet Street Kitchen, we make sure all of our seafood choices are based off the Seafood Watch list and only select the seafood listed as "Good" or "Good Alternative."
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?
All the great product that's not sustainable makes it difficult. There's some great tasting seafood that is overfished. We recently had to stop using monkfish, because it is now in the red on the Seafood Watch List. It's unfortunate, but it it makes me more creative and exposes people to different types of fish that perhaps they wouldn't necessarily try.
What is one sustainable seafood ingredient you hope to see more of in restaurants (including your own) this year?
Lionfish & Snakehead. Both are invasive species that are threatening key ecosystems. Lionfish are damaging coral reef ecosystems across the oceans and are actually a great tasting fish. It'd be great to see more of it on Baltimore menus. Snakehead are doing the same here in the Chesapeake Bay. There has been a lot of great press about using snakehead in restaurants. I'm definitely hoping to use both at Fleet Street Kitchen.
If everyone could walk away from our Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be …
My hope is to pass along Fleet Street Kitchen's passion for sustainable seafood and for people to make the connection between the way seafood is harvested and what is on their plate. It's also important for people to know that they can ask if a fish is sustainable in a restaurant. This lets a restaurant's chef and staff know that there's a demand for conscientious ingredients. Most restaurants will appreciate this, even if they aren't currently serving sustainable products.
To learn more about our sustainable seafood program and other conservation initiatives, click here.