By Melissa Kogut, Executive Director, Chefs Collaborative

After several weeks of often polarized debate in the media and blogosphere, following the announcement of a ‘blacklisted fish’ dinner at Legal Sea Foods, the event finally took place on Monday evening.

I was among the more than 60 guests who filled the wine cellar of Legal Sea Foods at Park Square in Boston.  The gathering included members of the New England Culinary Guild who hosted the dinner, ocean conservationists, chefs, fishermen and food lovers curious to finally clear up confusion about sustainable seafood.  We sat at long tables in the crowded room and the mood was one of anticipation for the conversation that would take place.

The discussion around sustainable seafood can get tense because the stakes are high.  Livelihoods of fishermen are at risk, concern for the health of our oceans and fisheries is high, and information that reaches the public is often confusing and inconsistent.

I didn’t get complete information that would help me understand what about the menu offerings that evening were sustainable.  I learned that Roger Berkowtiz, the CEO of Legal Sea Foods, has a strong relationship with his suppliers (for example, the shrimp farm in Vietnam, which he visits) and is satisfied with the information he receives about their sustainability practices.  But I can’t say that the discussion at Legal Sea Foods solved any longstanding conflicts between all the different stakeholders.  I didn’t expect that.

Here’s what I was thinking as I left the dinner:

  • Roger Berkowitz gets credit for starting an important conversation with all the stakeholders.
  • Chefs all over the country are having the conversation about sustainable seafood with their suppliers and customers.  Transparency is important and it’s more important than ever for chefs to provide customers with information about what’s on the menu.
  • At the dinner, we heard different perspectives from very knowledgeable people.  The issues around sustainable seafood are not black and white.  But Chefs Collaborative is here to help chefs navigate these issues.

I was glad to be a part of the conversation and delicious dinner last evening.  To learn more about domestic and international issues surrounding sustainability, I encourage you to check out the online seafood tutorial, Green Chefs Blue Ocean, as well as our Chefs Guide to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood.  As always, we welcome your contribution to this important discussion.  Please feel free to leave feedback below or engage with us on Facebook and Twitter.