For Barton Seaver, improving seafood sustainability begins by starting conversations. The chef turned author and advocate spends his time making connections between academics and businesspeople, producers and consumers, sustainability and health. And with his new cookbook, “Two If by Sea,” he seeks to make seafood sustainability approachable. Identifying more than 70 varieties of fish — some familiar, some less so — he explains flavor profiles and optimal cooking techniques. “One of the things about sustainability is that when we choose to buy products, there’s another equal and opposite action,” he says. “That is, we are not buying another product. If I put salmon on my dinner plate tonight, I’m not putting beef on.”
Seaver, named chef of the year by Esquire in 2009, left his restaurants in Washington, D.C., for South Freeport, Maine, in 2010 to be closer to a working waterfront and the fisheries he looks to sustain. He is now director of the Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and is a fellow with the National Geographic Society.
Q. Sustainable seafood can be an overwhelming subject. How do you start the conversation?
A. I ask: What is it you would like to sustain? Here in Boston maybe it’s that you want to sustain the maritime culture of Boston, America’s greatest waterfront city. OK. Then your answer is Red’s Best [fish market]. It’s landing local [fish], keeping every dollar within the city. All of a sudden, you ascribe these civic values to fisheries that complement environmental values, and you engage people in the process.