Name: Evan Gastman, The Cottage

Location: Sarasota, FL

What fish are you most excited to cook and why? For me, there are too many delicious species of local fish here on the Coast to choose a favorite. Waking up each morning and having the Gulf of Mexico at my feet, gets me tangled in fishing line before I even get out of bed!

Growing up in New York, which is the Mecca of amazing cuisine, and having a Dad that loved food and art prepped me for this life. Now, living in Sarasota, the variety and abundance of seafood is at our doorstep – for a Chef, that is an amazing catch!

What are sustainable seafood practices you live by? The sustainable seafood movement has continued to gain momentum and I am proud to be part of that and part of the Chefs Collaborative! I strive to inform our patrons of what they are eating: what species and where and how our fish are caught.

I love sushi, I love tuna, but tuna is over fished and we need to look for other sources and species. A few weeks ago, we prepared Red Drum sushi! We sliced it super thin and marinated over kelp and chilies, then we grated some fresh radish and Florida citrus. Truly a Floridian take on a classic, but all sustainable! As a Chef, I have the responsibility to not only create dishes but to buy local, buy fresh, buy seasonal, and maintain a great relationship with our purveyors.

What’s a future project you’re excited about? We are very excited about our new high-end steak and seafood restaurant, opening soon! It will be located right next door to The Cottage, and we will be featuring humanely raised beef from all natural beef programs and sustainable seafood and shellfish.

How do you change menus in order to change lives? We have the power to prove that sustainable seafood is the best way to source, cook, and serve food to our guests. We consistently stay knowledgeable on all aspects of food to offer our guests the very best. We carefully create our menus and prepare unique specials to offer a fresh, healthy approached that will change the way people eat!

What is your advice for chefs in similar roles? Stay passionate about your craft, keep learning and educating yourself, read and research all the time, talk to your guests and get out of the kitchen once in awhile, and truly see where you food is coming from. Inspire those you work with and always stay true to yourself! For me, it is way more than food – it is an art, a science, and a way of life!

Having just become a new dad and watching my baby girl grow, I am amazed by her curiosity, her intense interest in everything, and the innocence she possesses. It has made me think, what can we do to make the world a better place for her and the future generations? This should be a concern to all. As a Chef and proud Member of the Chefs Collaborative, I choose to educate, motivate, and feed the public in the best ways possible so we can continue to change menus and change lives!