As Rece Hogenheide, chef of Felony Provisions in Detroit, described the dish he was sharing, the vision for Off the Hook came into view. Hogenheide served up a sort of “sausage” made with steelhead trout and Kentucky farmed shrimp, wrapped in bacon from a Mangalitsa hog that he’d harvested in Michigan. The dish was topped with grilled American unagi, and a Green Goddess sauce made with oil from Kentucky Hemp Works and vinegar from MadHouse.
Off the Hook, a sustainable seafood event in February at the Newport Aquarium, aimed to educate chefs and diners about how to source, prepare, and enjoy seafood. It was co-hosted by Edible Ohio Valley and the Ohio River Chapter of Chefs Collaborative, with support from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, the Chef’s Collaborative Seafood Solutions, and the James Beard Foundation’s Smart Catch initiative, among others.
Local chefs Stephen Williams and Justin Dean invited culinary pros from around the country, including several James Beard regional nominees. Chefs from Detroit, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Sarasota, FL, and elsewhere came for the weekend to cook and learn from each other. “It’s great to chat with our peers, meet purveyors, and work with local products,” Hogenheide says.
Danielle Leoni, chef of The Breadfruit & Rum Bar in Phoenix, is part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Blue Ribbon Task Force and a champion of sustainable seafood. “I wanted to come and support this event,” she says. “We’re a small restaurant in a small inland community like Cincinnati; if we can do it here, it’s proof that sustainable sourcing can work. I really believe it’s so special for farmers and fishermen to provide good food for people, and they deserve our respect and support.”
A Cleveland native who relocated to Sarasota, chef Steve Phelps says he was surprised by how many Florida chefs overlook fish from local waters, instead preferring to buy seafood caught elsewhere. When he opened his own place in 2011, he focused on seafood, particularly species not typically found on restaurant menus, like mullet. Mullet, he explains, is commonly harvested for its roe, the carcass typically discarded. While smoked mullet is a staple in roadside joints throughout Florida, Phelps discovered how to butcher and cook the fish in an elevated way, creating a larger market for local anglers. He prepared a pan-fried mullet for Off the Hook diners that was superb and helped erase the fish’s backwater reputation.
While local chefs enjoyed “nerding out” over food during the weekend, Williams says the event was ultimately about teaching culinarians and consumers about sustainable seafood. “For a long time, pretty much every place in town used the same fresh fish suppliers,” he says. “Now with us finding more options, it’s opening the variety up. My main goal is to get all this information to local chefs so they know about their options and we can get more sustainable fish in this market.”
Bryn’s long career in publishing took a left turn sometime around 2010, when she discovered the joy of food writing. Since then, she’s found professional nirvana as the editor of Edible Ohio Valley, author of The Findlay Market Cookbook, and occasional instructor at The Cooking School at Jungle Jim’s. Find her seasonal recipes at writes4food.com.