Sustainable Seafood Q&A with Wit and Wisdom's Zack Mills
Published September 16, 2014
In advance of his upcoming Fresh Thoughts dinner at the Aquarium on September 23, we chatted with Wit and Wisdom's Zack Mills about how sustainable seafood is influencing Baltimore's dining scene!
Favorite sustainable ingredient to prepare?
It’s hard to pinpoint one particular item, but if I had to choose: it would be Black River Caviar from Uruguay. Black River Caviar was the first to pioneer an entirely new concept in sustainable caviar, and I see it as the ultimate ingredient to elevate seafood dishes. Right now at Wit & Wisdom we only purchase Black River Caviar periodically for special occasions or holidays, but I’d love to use it more.
How's sustainable seafood playing a role in Baltimore’s dining scene?
I’m excited to see sustainable seafood playing a bigger role in Baltimore’s dining scene. A lot more restaurants are steering away from items that are not sustainable—namely farm-raised salmon. This is important because it means chefs are becoming more informed about the significance of working sustainably. I learned how to properly practice sustainable cooking when I started working for Mina Group, and today it is one of the biggest factors in my menu choices at Wit & Wisdom.
How did growing up near the Bay influence the way you cook?
Growing up in Annapolis near the Chesapeake Bay has definitely contributed to my love for seafood and my culinary technique. I’ve been around crab, rockfish, tilefish and oysters since I was a kid, so I naturally gravitate toward those ingredients. I’ve also created longstanding relationships with farmers and purveyors around the Chesapeake area, and I love to highlight their sustainable food at Wit & Wisdom.
What sustainable ingredient do you hope to see more of this season?
Tilefish just came off of the “no fish” list so I’m incredibly excited to have added that to our menu. I plan on keeping it on the menu through the fall, as long as it continues to not be overfished. That is what sustainability is all about—considering the long-term vitality of the species.
Biggest challenge when it comes to cooking sustainably?
Staying educated, and in turn educating other people about sustainability, is an ongoing challenge. In the seafood world, I am constantly researching “Seafood Watch” to make sure the fish I serve are not being overfished. Sustainability is the future of food, and I believe it starts with the chefs. At Wit & Wisdom, we are a local sustainable restaurant; therefore I lead our staff with the expectation that they are continually staying on top of the latest news surrounding sustainability.
If everyone could walk away from your Fresh Thoughts dinner knowing one thing, it would be…?
I hope our guests leave this dinner with an interest in knowing where their food comes from and how it comes to them. Sustainability isn’t always the easiest option, but it’s worth it.