Authors@Google: Rick Moonen

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 21.10.2009

>> I'd like to welcome Rick Moonen from Las Vegas, R M Seafood, and also on this season's
"Top Chef Masters," which I'm sure hopefully he'll want to talk about.
So Rick, if you don't mind, I'll give the floor to you.
Thanks for coming here.
Rick Moonen: All right. It's a pleasure. I'm thrilled to be here. Thank you very much.
>> [Clapping]
Rick Moonen: Thanks for coming in and listening to me talk at you today a little bit.
I've got about 45 minutes to just give you a little bit of "The World According to Me"
in the world of seafood. And then, we'll have like some 15 minutes
or so to just Q and A. Talk about anything.
So I'm going to briefly touch on some subjects that I can talk about for hours, but that's
not why I'm here. I'm just kind of like giving you an idea.
I wrote a cookbook last year called, "Fish, Without a Doubt.”
And the reason for "Without A Doubt" is because, there's so many confusions around seafood.
I've been in the hospitality industry for 30 years.
So, I've seen a lot of changes. I've seen a lot of advances.
And we're at a critical point of our lives right now that, if we don't do something,
or understand a lot more about our oceans, we could lose our oceans, right?
That's the truth of it all, and that's the scary part.
And I hope that it scares people enough to motivate them to take some action.
And that's my ulterior motive today is to kind of like, leave you with that feeling
that, "Holy Smokes. This isn't an option anymore. It's a call to arms."
I'm going to give you a little bit of my bio -- a little verbal bio of myself.
I graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, which was -- and still is -- considered
one of the best schools in the world for culinary arts, learning about cooking.
Graduated first in my class in 1978. That's a long time ago, and the world was
different then. I went into New York City, and I worked at
a restaurant called, "La Cote Basque." from 1980 to '82.
I was there for two years. I was the Saucier.
Saucier is just like this very big position. You're in charge of all the stocks, the sauces,
sauteeing everything on the line. And as it would just -- I was cooking meat,
actually, I was on the stage where I really cooked meat.
On the other end of the line was a chef called Charlie Palmer, who is pretty well-known today.
And he was cooking fish. And as it turns out, he's got the meat restaurant,
I got the fish restaurant, but that's just the way it was back then.
I went to Key West, Florida, after that, because I wanted to see something out of New York
City. That's where I grew up.
I grew up in a part of the suburb of New York called Flushing, which was really -- in the
60's and the 70's, when I was growing up -- was a really melting pot.
There was a lot of ethnic diversity. You know, across the street from me was the
Greek family. Then, there was Catholics and Jews and Italians
and Irish, and you name it, it was all in the same neighborhood.
And there was traditions that went along with it.
So it was a pretty cool place for me to grow up as far as learning about diversity of the
world, you know, if you were going to be in one area.
So I wanted to leave. So I went down to Key West, Florida.
I stayed down there for nine months. I went fishing a lot.
I worked in a restaurant. There was a lot of seafood down there, and
I saw a lot about what freshness really meant. I would have guys -- shrimpers -- come to
my back door with bags of mixed-size shrimps that they just caught that day, selling it
for five dollars a pound just so they could have some drinking money.
It was an education for me, but it was also an exposure to real, super-pristine freshness.
Went back to New York City after being in Key West for nine months, because I realized
New York was really the place to be. And I got a job at Le Cirque, another very
well-known, high-end French restaurant. Because when I got out of school, it was French.
There wasn't American restaurants. There wasn't a lot of diversity.
Cuisine was considered -- if you wanted to go into a great training experience -- it
was the French restaurants. And there was a lot of them.
And that slowly evolved into what we see of more cross-cultural and more ethnic-focused
restaurants in neighborhoods in New York City. Stayed at Le Cirque for two years.
I was the Saucier there as well. Went on to a couple of other smaller restaurants
from there. Le Relais, French restaurant where I had my
first chef job. It was a small bistro, bustling, busy.
Went in the kitchen, just worked like crazy and just tried to make sense of it all.
Worked at a place called Bar Louie. Consulted that.
Got them set up with their -- it was a large restaurant down by the NYU, a University in
New York City. And they were bustling.
It was an Italian restaurant, and I set up all the sauces and the systems and everything.
Eventually went to my own restaurant called Chelsea Central.
My first review from the New York Times was a two-star review from Brian Miller who was
the reviewer at the time. It was a turning point for my career, because
you really 'den, den, den,' all of a sudden celebrity started to get involved.
Because when I went to school, it was just a -- it was a profession.
It was a vocation. You were working 12 hours a day, six days
of the week, and you really weren't getting any kind of special recognition for it.
But when I finally went to The Water Club, things started to change a little bit.
This is a little more than 20 years ago. It was 1988 when I started.
I started on 8/8/88, as a matter of fact. Yesterday was 9/9/09, so.
This is one of those dates I could remember. And I stayed there for four years.
And during that time frame, I got involved, not only -- I started to put on different
hats. I started to see some changes, some shifts.
People started to ask more questions. You weren't just a cuisineer anymore.
You needed to know more about people's diets. You know, because you had the Atkin's Diet.
If your guests were asking you, you know, they told you they were on the Atkin's Diet,
you were expected to know what that meant and how you were going to feed them, and what
on the menu didn't conform to the Atkin's Diet, or this diet, or that diet.
And then there was the need to learn a little bit more about the environment.
How things were caught. Sourcing of food became more of a focus because
of media, knowledge, you know, education of the consumer.
I started to realize that the tuna that they're purchasing or consuming is affecting dolphins,
you know. So they wanted to know how it was caught.
And so, now you had to start to source out a little bit with more information so that
you could provide your guests, who come to your restaurant, with the certain level of
trust that you're going to take care of them, and that you can answer these questions.
So the role of the chef definitely went through an evolution during that time frame, and I
got involved as an activist and an environmentalist when I started speaking out about genetically-engineered
foods. That was 20 years ago.
And I was interviewed, by happenstance, when I was with a group of chefs on the steps of
City Hall. And a gentleman with a microphone asked me
if I would make a comment about genetically-engineered foods, and I'm like, "What's that?”
You know, I'm hanging out with a bunch of other chefs.
We're dressed up in chef jackets because we're getting our picture taken because of our contribution
the increase of tourism in New York City. And so, I get this microphone put in my face,
and he's telling me that, "Well, genetically engineered foods is where they're taking,
you know, fruits and vegetables and they're changing them and altering them with the genes
of other animals and bacteria etc. to alter them so that they can give them longer shelf-lives
etc.” And I was like, "Wow, that's pretty radical."
So I made a comment. I said, "Hi. My name's Rick Moonen.
I'm the executive chef at The Water Club. I think Mother Nature has been doing a terrific
job for a millennium, and really, if we're going to spend our money, we should put it
best spent in distribution of really, good organic foods, because it just didn't seem
to make it into too many people's houses. Thank you.”
That made it on the radio, and it was one of those radio stations that repeated a sound
bite every hour. And so, all of a sudden I'm getting phone
calls from something I knew nothing about a few hours ago, genetically engineered foods.
So I'm suddenly the expert to go to. So I realize at that point I needed to find
out more. And this is, again, in the late eighties.
So the only thing you had was a fax machine and a phone.
You know, we didn't have all these things on our laps.
And I made a few phone calls. I got the New York Times, looked up a genetically-engineered
food article, and I realized that Dr. Rebecca Goldberg and this guy named -- Oh, what was
his name? He was a big activist.
Jeremy Rifkin! Big activist in D.C. Called him up and said, "I need more information.”
They faxed me a ream of paper. And I'm sitting there reading and just wigging
out over the fact that there's no premarket safety testing on these things.
There's flounder genes in your tomatoes, whether you know it or not, because flounders are
found that they can freeze, and they can thaw out.
A flounder will live. "Oh, that's cool. Let's take that gene, put it in a tomato,
and now we got frost-resistant tomatoes.” [low whistle] Whoo.
20 years later, we got Food Incorporated going on in our lives.
And it's scary, you know? But back then, I was realizing that no pre-market
safety testing, no mandatory labeling. So I can't even find out if I'm getting it
or not as a food product. So I spoke out about it.
And I ended up talking to a bunch of chefs. We ended up having a press conference.
The press conference turned into a Chef's Coalition for the Pure Food Campaign.
Five hundred chefs later, you know, a few months later, sending out letters.
Everybody's up in arms about their food, where it's coming from, how they can't answer the
concerns of their customers anymore, because if you had an analogy to a flounder, how would
I know if you were having a tomato salad today? I can't tell you that anymore.
That was just wrong, and that's really what we're reacting to.
I'm a chef. But somehow I ended up becoming more than
that. Then I went from The Water Club to a restaurant
called Oceana where my life went Boof. Single subject. Seafood restaurant.
Had lots of experience. Been in Key West. Went fishing. Went fishing with my dad.
Went to the Culinary Institute of America. Graduated first in my class.
I've got all the right things going on. Now I've got the single subject of the oceanic
world, Oceana. And I got a phone call from Nora Pouillon,
who's the chef that has an all-organic restaurant in D.C.
We had done things together, talking on panels about genetically-engineered foods.
And she got involved in a program called, "Give Swordfish a Break.”
Now, swordfish -- North Atlantic swordfish -- beautiful animal, pelagic, goes all over
the world. And if they'd found out, or they did some
statistics, some studies, that if we don't change the way we were buying North Atlantic
swordfish, purchasing and catching it -- or, hunting it, really.
It's not just catching, it's hunting -- that it was going to become commercially extinct
in the next five years. I was like, "Woe.”
And because I was going to the Fulton Fish Market on a regular basis when I was a chef
at The Water Club, I realized that there were some major changes from my own personal experience.
I'd seen -- when I was at the Fulton Fish Market -- the size of the fish diminish.
They categorize them. Swordfish that's under a hundred pounds is
called a "pup." Between 100 pounds and 200 pounds, it's called
a "marker.” Two hundred and above, it's a "double marker.”
And on and on. I'm going to guess that at 300 or above, it's
probably a "triple marker.” Now, I used to see double markers all the
time. I used to purchase them.
You know, when I was at The Water Club, we did some major volume.
I'd buy entire fish. It was a great steak on a grill for large
parties, banquets. Grilled swordfish was very, very, very well-appreciated.
I started seeing smaller and smaller. I mean, to the point where, it was more common
on the Fulton Fish Market to find pups, 100 pounds and lower.
And when I was asked to be a part of, "Give Swordfish a Break," well, I saw that there
was concern, so I joined. I said, "Why not?”
And I ended up becoming a poster-child spokesperson for it.
And I never looked back. You know. What it was, was an awareness campaign to
alert people that, "If we kind of lay off of this fish a little bit? It'll make a recovery.”
But it was more so trying to get government regulations to happen.
In the history of these regulatory agencies trying to be persuaded to do the right thing,
they normally -- it was difficult. Whereas with this nationwide awareness program,
motivated agencies to actually make regulatory changes internationally.
And North Atlantic swordfish became on a path of sustainability, which is amazing and it
was historic. I ended up going from Oceana, after I got
involved with "Give Swordfish a Break," I went and opened up my own restaurant in New
York City. And now I'm in Sin City, Nevada -- Las Vegas,
Nevada -- for the last five years, running my own restaurant.
It's called Rick Moonen's RM Seafood. And it's about all different kinds of layers.
From downstairs as a casual cafe where there's recognizable seafood items like gumbos and
chowders. We have a sushi area. I have a raw bar area.
And upstairs is my fine dining floor, where the white tablecloths, the fancy linen and
silver come out, and we deliver a topnotch, expensive, high-end experience.
When I graduated from The Culinary Institute in '78, there was not a part of that -- and
this is considered the finest culinary school in the United States -- there wasn't even
a program on seafood. In 1976 when I started there, it wasn't a
part of the curriculum. There was nothing about fabrication of fish.
There wasn't anything about product identification. Because seafood is confusing to most people.
And there's many, many reasons why it's confusing. I was not really capable of finding too much
sources on seafood, you know? I'm thinking about back on, you know, you
go through an entire culinary school, and the only exposure that you had to seafood
was from appetizers. And that's really all that was being offered
in restaurants at the time. I have a couple of menus.
This is a menu from Chicago in the 1970s. And just for the heck of it before I came
out here, I decided to open it up and look at it, because I just wanted to know in the
70's, what was being offered in restaurants. And this isn't necessarily a seafood restaurant,
but really, what you would have is shrimp cocktail, crabmeat cocktail, smoked Nova Scotia
salmon, baked clams, clams in red sauce. You know, you would find dishes that were
just very, very basic. You weren't -- and back in that time that's
when fish had -- and dishes had -- names to them.
You knew what "florentine" was. Florentine meant that there was spinach in
it. I've got a list of things here.
Bonn femme. These are classic dishes.
This is what you learned. But it was only like five or six or seven
different types of things that you learned and that was it.
Diversity of what was being served in the United States was very narrow.
You knew that "almondine" meant almonds. A la Genevoise. If something was sauteed genevoise,
it meant that there was going to be capers and lemon and croutons, and maybe a little
bit of brown sauce around the outside. Florentine was spinach.
You had Thermador, Rockefeller, Veronique, and maybe that was about it.
Those were recognizable names. You didn't really find anything that was being
innovatively handled. And that started to happen.
I guess it took maybe another 10, 15 years before you started to see on menus things
like this. You know, poached Ecuadoran shrimp, arugula
roasted baby beets, lime ginger vinaigrette. You started to see more focus on products.
You know, "day boat diver sea scallops seared with," you know, and then they'll tell you
the farm that the corn came from and how it was done.
And that became more of the norm on a menu. So you went from classic dishes that you understood
and moved into more of a innovative style of dealing with the ocean.
But there was still confusion, and why? First of all, names.
The nomenclature, or the "name game," I call it.
You know, just common names of fish just don't exist.
You can change the name any given day, any given moment.
The U.S. sea robin, for instance. This is a nuisance fish.
If you're out at sea fishing, you get sea robins and you throw them back.
They're junk fish. They're a pain in the neck. They're taking
your bait. But basically, that same fish -- same genus
and species -- is one of the bases for bouillon base in France.
It's just about confusion and misunderstanding. Black fish. When I was at Oceana, I popularized
a dish. It was made out of a local fish out of Long
Island. It was called tautog, or black fish.
But anybody that would fish it in Long Island would see it as junk fish, and they couldn't
understand why I was serving it on a three star menu in New York City.
Because fish is good. It's all up here. A lot of it is about us stepping outside of
a comfort zone, you know, and understanding a little bit more about fish.
But how can you understand and embrace fish when they're changing their name every other
day? A popular fish that's endangered today --
or is certainly, if it's not completely endangered, is on the path to be -- is Chilean sea bass,
originally known as Patagonian toothfish. A beautiful fish that was another marketing
name-change game was Orange Roughy. Orange Roughy, great fish.
How many people have heard of Orange Roughy? Do you know what it was called before it was
Orange Roughy? Slimehead.
>> [Laughter]
Rick Moonen: That's what it was called. Now, if you came into Oceana, and I had my
captain come up to you and say, [in a French accent] "Tonight, chef Rick Moonen has prepared
the slimehead very nicely for you with blah blah," you're not going to listen to it.
So it's about, you know, that achievement of comfort level.
Oysters. They're renamed every single day. I mean, an oyster is basically identified
by where it's grown, you know, and which is actually oysters are a great example of something
that's very sustainable. These are filtered feeding fish that clarify
the water, that keep everything healthy, that make the eel grass grow on the bottom that
give the fish a place to hide. It's an ecosystem.
It's about us understanding our symbiosis -- our nourishing and giving back to the
ecosystem that has been giving us something that we are super-privileged to get, but we
abused over so many, many years. Cod. Let's talk about just for a second.
Cod is what built America. The reason that Europeans came over to the
United States or into the Georgia's banks' areas in the first place was, there was such
a high population of cod that you could walk across the water on their backs.
Cod goes under the name haddock, hake, pollock, ling cod, true cod, scrod -- which is, I guess
just a nickname, a local colloquialism for an immature cod -- tomcod, etc. etc. Atlantic
cod, Pacific cod. And that's just cod.
Bass. The word "bass" doesn't hardly mean anything, because it just sounds so good it
gets slapped on to so many different fish. So that's confusing layer number one.
How do I tell if it's fresh? How do I do this?
You know, when I was asked to do a cookbook, "Fish Without a Doubt," is what I came up
with, because I was typecasted into being a seafood chef because I was at Oceana, and
that's what I was doing. And now I'm outspoken.
I'm a proponent of the ocean. Trying to get people to be aware that What
we eat affects the future or the possible future of what we're going to eat.
I did a little bit of research, because seafood cookbooks generally did not sell.
Because seafood is available fresh on this coast and that coast and pretty much in the
middle, not much of anything else. And because it's so confusing that, that's
the way it's always been. The middle of America is eating meat and dairy
and the sides of America are eating seafood more, but not at a crazy rate.
As time would go on, we learned more that seafood is good for us, so we have to source
it out. And we -- there was a lot of questions about
doing a seafood cookbook. So I did a little bit of a canvas.
I asked a lot of people, "Why don't you cook seafood at home?”
"Mmm. It smells up my kitchen. I'm not really sure how to pick it out --
tell if it's fresh. I don't know what to do with it.
It's expensive. If I don't cook it that day, it's bad the
next day. And what if I overcook it?”
If you overcook it, it's just unfamiliarity. We weren't familiar with it.
Well, seafood stinks. That's what people think.
It smells up your kitchen. Well, when I grew up in Flushing -- I'm going
to go back to my childhood. I think back on some things now. -- I think
it's just a matter that we're not used to the way it smells.
Good seafood cooking isn't something that's a normal aroma in your household.
I used to deliver newspapers in these apartment buildings.
And when you're in an apartment building, the smells of what's coming out of each little
apartment is just amazing, the diversity of -- I mean, I was just a little kid.
I was chubby. I was hungry back then. So I was really always attracted to it all.
But the reality of it is, when you come home and there's a turkey in the oven, or there's
a prime rib in the oven, no one's coming home screaming, "Ma! It smells beefy in here.”
Fish is fish. It's part of who we are. And because it wasn't part of the American
culture growing up, it was treated as something foreign.
You know, in my household, we ate it once a week.
My mother, devoted Catholic. Fridays we're eating fish.
If you eat meat on Friday, you go to hell. So, I'm probably going to hell; I ate a hotdog
once. But, that's what it was.
You know, I mean, it could be fishsticks with coleslaw and tartar sauce one Friday, which
personally, as a kid, I loved. Could be -- or a swordfish steak broiled under
the broiler. Or a piece of salmon, or something different,
but it was something delicious. And it's just about that comfort.
And it's about -- that's where I'm hoping that our culture is ready to push ourselves
over the edge and get a little bit more diverse. Because at the end of all of this, that's
the answer. It's about diversity.
It's about getting out of your little comfort zone of shrimp, salmon, and tuna, and that's
it. Okay, I got my Omega-3s, I'm good.
But the problem is that we put so much pressure on those species that they become endangered
and nonsustainable. So somehow we're going to have to find a comfort
of stepping outside that so. I wanted to write a book to help out with
that a little bit, you know? Say that, categorically, here's a recipe,
pick anything out of this category of fish, and you'll have a success.
And hopefully you're stepping out into a place, you know.
So you're having tilapia once in awhile. You're having a barramundi.
You're having fish that's outside of your "tuna, salmon, and shrimp" box of comfort.
Freshness. How do I tell if it's fresh, you know?
That I rolled into the book. The comfort of picking out a piece of meat
is not really that -- the anxiety level is low.
You know what to look for. It's the same things when you're looking for
fish. If it's browning around the edge, or it doesn't
look right, or the coloration isn't the same, if it's not attractive to you, you've got
all the basic skills. And that's what I try to do.
This language I'm speaking to you with, that's the voice -- that's the language I wanted
to do a book. I didn't want to be pretentious on a subject
that's already confusing, because that's not going to get you anywhere.
I want to say, "It's not that difficult. If I can do it, you can do it.”
And because I was doing it for so many years, you know.
I tried to kind of like give people an idea like what's happening.
How are fishes handled is really the most crucial thing to the freshness.
It's not How many hours out of the water. Two boats fishing, same day, same bay, pulled
a fish out of the water. Ooh! They both caught a 15-pound, striped
bass. Mr. Number One, with a cigar in his mouth,
throws it on the deck, steps on it, pulls the hook out of the mouth, and starts fishing
again and leaves it right there. Second person carefully takes it out, puts
it on ice, guts it, puts it there. Fish has been out of the water for exactly
same time. Which fish is fresher?
Well, the one that's on ice. Well, not really.
It's the same amount out of the water. So it's How it's caught. It's sourcing.
It's so many different things. Oh boy, more confusion, all right?
But, you can use your own eyes. You can tell. If they're handled correctly, you know, and
you can go to a fishmonger, and you ask questions. What I want to do is empower you to ask the
questions. The more consistent questions that are asked
upon an industry that has not really focused on being consistent is going to force them
to be consistent, and the power of where we are right now can tell you that.
Just walking through this campus is blowing my mind, and this is where movements are changed.
I mean, we vote with our wallets, you know? So knowledge is incredibly powerful.
And emotion behind it is what makes people use that knowledge.
So I'm here to make you all cry if I can figure that out today.
The fish, you look at it; it's supposed to bounce back.
You touch the flesh. The scales should be all intact, the eyes
should be clear. You know, the gills should be red.
All the usual things that people are a little bit afraid to look at.
But basic instinct. Your nose [sniff] -- it should smell like
an ocean. Fish should smell like an ocean.
They shouldn't have a stink; they should have a scent, you know?
A perfuminess about them. Cucumbery, you know?
Those are just a few of the concerns about -- Overcooking.
All right. Within the book I talk about playing with
your food a little bit: prodding, touching. You've got a set of references.
Every single person here has cooked an egg I would assume.
We've all fried an egg. We've seen an egg being fried.
An egg white is pure albumin practically. You see it go out of the eggshell.
It's pure, clear, see through it, translucent. [whistles] You know that, "Well, until that's
all white, the egg whites aren't cooked." Right?
'Cause then they turn, you can't see through them anymore.
They turn white like your shirt. And then the yolks, depending on how you want
them cooked, you know what you're looking for.
You've learned what kind of egg you like. Same thing with fish, you know?
Protein, when it cooks, changes colors. So you just need to poke and look in there
a little bit, but if you put a piece of fish in a pan, you'll notice on the bottom, it's
going to start changing color. If it's a clear fish, you know, it's got that
translucence to it, little by little it's going to start turning more white just like
the egg white did. You know, if it's pink fish, you know if it's
a red fish, it turns a little lighter in color. It turns pink.
But those are your set of references. It's all just about paying attention and having
a little bit of fun with your food. Touching.
The way a raw piece of fish feels, it feels like a raw piece of flesh.
But, as it cooks, the proteins firm up a little bit.
So rule of thumb, if you touched your thumb right here, you'd see it's nice and soft.
If you touch your thumb to your index finger, that muscle starts to tighten up a little
bit. And as you go down a little bit more, you
touch this finger, the muscle firms up a little more.
That's like a medium rare piece of meat or fish.
That's more like medium. It gets firm. And if you touch your pinky, that's as firm
as it gets. That's like a well-done piece of meat.
And if you're not sure, poke your knife in there and look at it.
And little by little you learn how to tell the doneness of a fish.
So you're not going to blow it. You're not going to ruin a piece of ocean
protein by overcooking it as long as you're willing to play around with it a little bit.
And then, once you've got your set of references, you're good.
And then there's sustainability, you know? About being responsible.
"Where do I go? It gets so darn confusing.” So I threaded sustainability through my book.
What I tried to do is break it down by cooking techniques.
All right? And cooking techniques changed a little bit over the years.
My book -- 1977 is the copyright of this book. This is a blue book that cover fell off.
It's called "The Encyclopedia Of Fish Cookery," by A.J. McClane.
And this is what I had to go to, because fish cookery was not -- there wasn't a large section
in a library on this. And if you went through.
Say you're are a house cook, and you wanted to learn how to cook fish at home.
You knew how to pick it out and you were going to bring it home and you really wanted to
know how to do it. You had two choices.
One that was old school which is old baked casseroles, stinky bad fish, no-wonder-you-didn't-like-it
recipes, you know? Or you got recipes that you could never reproduce
at home. So it's hollandaise sauce, glissage, poached
all of these other things that were just too far ahead of it.
But me as a professional, this was my set of references.
And I was funny, I was just thumbing through it and cooking methods.
Deep frying. Basic fish batter, thin fish batter, all part
of frying. Deep frying in advance.
Deep frying to order. Deep frying, more deep frying.
Oh, pan frying. Sauteeing.
Fish cakes. Poaching or broiling.
Baking and planked fish. That's it. That's it for fish cookery.
Now, I wanted to take it -- and take it to a slightly different level -- so we started
talking about steaming. Steaming fish is real simple.
Aromatic steaming. You could steam it in a bamboo steamer.
Explain to you how an inexpensive thing like that can bring you great results.
Or putting them into little wrapping them into tinfoil and letting them steam with aromatics
which is actually a derivative of a classic called a fish in papyote.
Grilling. There wasn't a lot of grilling or barbecueing of fish, you know, many years
ago. And it didn't come in with the French influence,
because French cuisine doesn't really embrace grilling -- bottom grilling -- it just wasn't.
So you never saw that going on in French restaurants. And that became more of an evolution, and
I was part of that. Roasting. Slow roasting, large pieces of fish,
not just baking in a casserole, but actually taking a piece of fish, coating it in something
and roasting it. Cooking it, letting it rest, slicing it.
That became more popular. Butter-basting, where you're not just frying
something, you're putting it in a pan, and as the butter browns, you keep putting it
over the top of the fish. That's a technique that I use a lot, and I
try to introduce into "Fish Without a Doubt." The purpose of this book is to get people
to take from "Dad fish" to "successful fish.” Next book will be the fancy stuff.
But I didn't want to intimidate anybody by coming out with a book that was going to like,
continue the whole idea that you, "Well, you make a hollandaise, and then you just fold
in some whipcream, and put it over the top, and that's it.”
How many people make a hollandaise at home? None that I know of anyway.
And butter poaching and better poaching methods. Like not boiling fish.
Cooking it at controlled temperatures so that the protein actually stays intact and that
the results come out unctuous. And those are all techniques that I incorporated
into the book. And it's broken down by exactly that.
And flavor combinations. It basically gives you a matrix of possibilities,
you know, so that when you're going to the store, and you've got a recipe in your hand
that you ripped out of a magazine or printed on your computer.
And you're going to the store to buy chicken breast, broccoli, garlic, lemon grass, whatever
it is, you can get those items. But if you're going to the store, and you're
going for trout, for instance. Okay, I got a great trout recipe for all of
you, all right? It's chicken fried trout with a coleslaw and
a tartar sauce. Delicious.
And you're, "Great, I'm going to go do it.” And you run to your store and you go, "I need
trout. No trout? Ohh.” What do you do?
You know you're going to find chicken. Well, what I try to do is, accept substitutes.
You know that same chicken fried trout recipe? You can do it with tilapia.
You can do it with catfish. You can do it with mahi mahi.
You can do it with Arctic char. So you've got yourself one technique, yet
a matrix of possibilities for success. And that was another directive that I wanted
too. And that's what's going to get you comfortable
-- or hopefully, will get you comfortable -- with personally having success at home
which will make you want to do it more and more again and see some diversity.
What really happened -- how it all came to change was -- in my lifetime.
I'm from the East Coast. I saw when Gilbert Le Coze opened up a restaurant
called La Bernadette in New York City. It started to show people that fish can be
treated a little bit differently and enjoyed. It's okay to have fish that's not completely
cooked through if it's sourced out right. He started to introduce carpaccios and ceviches
and tartars and medium-rare cooked fish. And this is at a time where sushi wasn't even
recognized. People weren't eating raw fish.
It just wasn't done. But a restaurant in New York City got four
star acclaim from New York Times, got a lot of recognition from New York Magazine, and
it started to get national -- it became a movement of seafood shifting.
People started to go, "Ooh. Something different.” And we start to enjoy fish and seafood in
a different manner. And then, people like Julia Child came on.
She had her cooking show. And she was helping to break down.
Here's this lady that everybody can embrace. You like her.
She's kind of goofy, which makes it even better, because if you're going to talk about a pretentious
subject, being goofy is kind of cool, right? And she'd throw this fish up on the table,
and it was this ugly, ugly fish called the monk fish or an angler fish or a lotte, L-O-T-T-E.
Of course, it's going to have 12 names, because we've already had that discussion.
And she goes to break it down, and you see the little piece of the tail comes out.
And the ugly thing goes away and it gets cooked up and it's unbelievable.
The recipe is great. And it's called "Poor man's lobster," and
we all embrace it. Well, that's great.
And that's a good start, but everybody ran that way.
Monk fish became so popular, that it became overfished, all right?
So, then you had Paul Prudhomme. You know, he came on board and here's this
guy from Louisiana, really cool, spicy stuff, you know, pan-blackened red fish.
And that was fantastic 'til red fish ran out. Because we have a tendency to be, "What's
next?" And we jump on board and we just fish it to death almost.
Another example of that is -- I don't even like to talk about it -- but, it's when Japanese
sushi, Japanese cuisine, the respect, the intrigue of Japanese cuisine came into the
mainstream United States eating habits. I remember when I went to Nobu in New York
City. Awe man, it's changed.
I mean, I remember when I first had hamachi with uzu and a jalapeno pepper on it.
It just made me stop and I couldn't believe it; it was so delicious.
You know, blue fin tuna. And all of these things that are just amazing
products. Chilean sea bass is another amazing product,
but we need to be able to be creative enough to realize that chefs -- gatekeepers, influential
people that are trying to introduce seafood -- that we're careful that we don't push
things in a direction that makes them fall off of a cliff.
Because fish aren't created equal. And when I first got involved in talking out
about sustainability, it was one thing. "Let's stop catching so many," because we've
got technology. The last 50 years, technology has far surpassed
anything that's being hunted, all right? I mean, nothing that's hunted today stands
a chance. If we allow it, they will be completely captured
and just taken out of the ecosystem, and we can't allow that to happen.
Everything is here for a reason. One thing works off another.
They rely on each other. And I like to use a car example, because people
seem to care more about what they put in their cars than in their bodies, etc.
And so, would you pull your precious car to the side of the road, open the hood, take
a part out, throw it on the side, close your hood, and expect it to drive the same? No
way. But we do that to our ecosystem, because if
it doesn't affect us, we don't really care about it.
It has historically just moved on as insignificant or not as important as it should be.
You know, sharks. Peter eventually came out with a movie called
Jaws. "Sharks are bad. I don't care if they all
go away, my kids are safer.” Well, that's not true.
Sharks are a necessary part of an ecosystem. Everything plays a role, and you can't just
pull something out and expect that it's going to continue to roll, you know, in a healthy
manner. [pause] I am confused where I'm going next
to be honest with you. Other things that I'd wanted to incorporate
into "Fish Without A Doubt" is basically just a level of comfort.
You know, when I did this book, I tried to immerse myself into what most people have
to encounter as hurdles when they decide that they're going to cook fish at home.
And that is, you know, recognizing, being comfortable going to the market, holding on
to it, how to handle it when they get home. And so, I had a lot of different sections
of "Fish Without A Doubt" are just illustrative. Rub your hand over the fish, touch it, smell
it, feel it, cook it, while it's cooking, you know, prod it.
You know, here's some flavors that are going to work, that are going to give you a much
better level of success. So back to sustainability.
It wasn't just about taking too many fish out of the ocean.
And I thought that was the way it was going to be, because there's other issues of concerns,
one of them being -- not just overfishing -- but bycatch.
Different fisheries are targeted species, boats go out after them, and they capture
a lot of fish that are not necessarily on their targeted species list.
So there's a lot of excessive waste of bycatch. I just wanted to give a statistic.
These are the accidental capture of untargeted species.
So if you're going after pollock, for instance, in the Bering Sea, and you've got these gigantic
trawlers, these things that are the size of city blocks that are just, you know, removing
pollock from an area where they've identified them, other fish come up with them such as
wild salmon, such as sea turtle such as other things.
And by the time they filtered out what they wanted to bring up in the first place, everything
else gets pushed over the side, dead or dying. So the tuna's like 7.3 million tons in a year.
That's a lot of protein. And in an ecosystem that the biomass is just
diminishing, we need to take that into consideration. So I needed to take that into consideration.
I didn't want to, but it's something that I had to think about when I was trying to
decide what I was going to put on my menu or what I was going to promote.
Habitat destruction was another one. If you destroy where they live, you know,
that's going to contribute to the deterioration of a population of a species.
So if you're going to drag these real, superheavy nets along the bottom of the ocean floor,
basically you're destroying where they live. You're catching them, you're bringing them
up. Let's just talk about shrimp for instance,
because people understand shrimp. Shrimp dredging, you throw these big nets,
and you drag them around using sonar. "Well, there seems to be more in this area,
that area.” But you're knocking down everything that they
need to reproduce after you're done catching them.
It's like clear-cutting a forest to get a deer for dinner, and then there's no more
forest left. And you wonder why there's no more deer the
next time you come back to find that deer. Same exact mentality and it happens continuously.
So habitat destruction. So now, still trying to be a chef here and
trying to figure out and do the right thing. I've got to worry about sonar, radar, just
technology being too strong. Then now, you got to worry about them catching
things they're not supposed to catch, and that's a big disgusting waste.
And now, it's about habitat destruction. Let's stop messing up their world.
Let's make sure the coral reefs are good and everything else, so that there's a healthy
ecosystem for everything else. Good. I'm done, right? No.
The thing that I thought was the greatest answer in the world was farming fish.
We could farm fish, right? This is great.
Farmed Atlantic salmon, the best thing since sliced, white bread.
This was back when I was in Oceana. I thought farm-raised Atlantic salmon was
tremendously great. And I'm supporting these environmental groups
doing efforts about, "Give Swordfish a Break.” Fine. We'll give swordfish a break.
It's worked. All right? Now they start talking about the salmon that
I've been loving, because it's inexpensive, it's diverse, everybody loves salmon.
Salmon is the number one selling fin fish. You can cook it just about any technique you
could possibly want. It's on the cover of my book.
You know, you wouldn't put something on the cover of a book that's going to scare people
away, you know? So salmon being fantastic, I didn't want to hear how it's not good for
the environment. I'm getting to the point where I don't want
to know anymore. My job is getting much more complicated, but
I needed to, because I was already deep into finding out about what's happening.
And there's aquaculture that you're raising carnivorous fish, carnivorous animals.
There's nothing you can buy in the supermarket that's carnivorous, except for fish.
Now, in order to feed those fish, you have to give them meat.
And the meat that they eat is more fish. So you go over, and you grab larger quantities
of this fish. Sardines, anchovies, what do you care --
you don't eat them anyway, right? Let's get all those anchovies and sardines
out, make Purina Salmon Chow, feed the salmon. Well, the ratio is off.
Takes you five pounds of this fish to make one pound of that fish.
What about all the other wild species that are relying on the sardines, anchovies categorically?
They suffer too. Oh boy. That's just what I needed.
Not only that, they escape. Because they're open nets.
They put them in the ocean, you know, in these netted areas and there's high concentrations
of fish in there. Well, they have predators.
Predators come and rip holes in there. If I was an orca whale, or if I was a killer
whale, and I knew there was a smorgasbord of salmon around the corner, [whistles] me
and the rest of the boys are going to go rip a hole in there and have dinner.
Well, that happens, and millions of them escape a year.
Also competing for food. And God forbid that they start to reproduce
with the wild species. That will just take a genetic code that has
been set up over millions of years and just pollute it to the point where they won't even
-- they'll get so confused they won't even know where they're going anymore.
Where was I? Okay. Well, and then, there's the usage of antibiotics.
You know, if you've got a concentration of fish in such a small area, one gets sick,
they all get sick. The stress or the strain of their environment
is just not right. So, Holy Smokes.
I'm giving you so many negative things. Well, there are solutions.
A permanent barrier, first and foremost, between the farm and the natural environment would
be great. Okay. One more thing I didn't even bring up --
these nets. Sea lice, which is a natural part of a life
cycle of a fish, but normally the sea lice don't come into their world when they're immature.
When they're immature, they don't have a coating on the outside.
They don't have the scale coating that can help protect them from sea lice.
Well, these salmon farms produce such high concentrations of sea lice that then spews
into the natural environment that anything that may swim by, such as one of the five
left species of salmon, they get infected by it.
And it's detrimentally affecting their population and their chances of coming back in consequent
years. So salmon is really a big case study right
now on what's happening in aquaculture and how there are better techniques.
And the better techniques are when there's a permanent barrier.
When there's closed containment systems. And there are -- there's a lot of research
being done. There's prototypes.
It's more expensive, so no one wants to run and do it, but -- in our world and hopefully
in our lifetime -- we're going to see more and more of closed containment systems being
implemented. They're talking about doing it in Canadian
government subsidization, subsidizing some closed-containment systems.
And the one thing that I don't even like to talk about -- but it's a part of my reality
-- it's health risks. You know, health risks of fish.
I'm trying to sell you fish. I'm trying to tell you how good it is.
Omega-3 is great for your body, for your mind, and I want you to buy my book.
I want you to take it home, because it's a tool, you know.
And then if you purchase, you know, sustainable fish off of like programs like Seafood Watch.
Seafood Watch is like this Monterey Bay Aquarium. Well, it's not just aquarium.
To me it's like the center for sustainability of the oceans in my world, because it's a
combination of many different layers of expertise -- scientists, marine biologists, you know,
and people that just really care. And they boil it down to these Seafood Watch
cards, where you get yellow, green, and red areas, and they simplify it all.
Everything that I've been talking about to you about for the last 45 minutes is basically
broken down and simplified on these cards. If you choose from the best choices, you're
making major strides towards making sure that there's a healthy supply of ocean protein
in the future, you know. And if you can't find the green, ask questions.
"Why not? Why can't you get the green?” Along with this becomes a tool towards making
sure that generations from now that there's going to be seafood available on and on and
on. I went further than I thought I was going
to go. I can continue to talk forever, but I wanted
to open this up for Q and A, and see if there's any parts of what I was giving you a discussion
about that we can maybe go a little deeper in. Yes?
>> [pause]
Q You talked a lot about trends in the U.S. and consumption and things, but are places
like China or India exploding in growth, and what do you see there?
Rick Moonen: Unfortunately, we're on this big round thing called the globe.
And not everybody plays exactly the same. Not everybody -- although regulations are
set -- not everybody follows them. You know, the United States is actually pretty
darn good. I mean Alaska, for instance, is probably one
of the greatest models for sustainability in the globe, you know?
And I can't answer to what everyone else does, but I mean, if we're all going to play in
this sandbox of life and we're going to try to like continue to have the privilege of
taking things from it that we don't even really -- I mean, I'm talking about wild species.
Someone has to start somewhere and better regulatory systems have to be set up.
It's difficult. It's an ocean. It's two-thirds of our world.
It's who we are. We're an ocean. You know, our bodies are just an ocean within.
If you don't believe it, taste your tears. I mean, it's our lives.
We are a product of our environment. And as soon as we can get everyone else to
kind of get on board with that, and by way of regulation, you know, we're going to have
that question that you asked me. I don't know exactly how to answer.
I wish I had a better -- there's some people here that I turn to.
Sheila just stand up for a second. You have to stand up.
Sheila Bowman is the Outreach Program Director for the Seafood Watch Program in Monterey.
She's my Go-to person. My entire career, I would call Sheila Bowman
when I'm doing my next menu, I'd say, "This is so confusing.”
And she doesn't know. We don't always have the answers to everything.
Octopus, for instance, I did a big thing in Art Culinaire.
It's a beautiful book, and I was asked if I would do something on octopus; I'm like
[Sss]. Let me see if I really, if it makes sense
for me. Because I'm a big supporter of sustainability.
If I do a thing on octopus, am I going to be going against?
So I called Sheila. I said, "What do I do?
Tell me the story of octopus.” And she's like, Well, here's the species
-- a consumed species, right? Not great in the United States, but it gains
popularity. It's bigger in Greece and Italy etc.
But this is an animal who's designed to be a chameleon and hide.
How do you do an inventory on it? You can't. Sometimes when it comes to biomass, you kind
of like guessing a little bit. You know, and that's another layer of confusion.
But if you really want to give yourself some direction, you log onto or
you can go onto your iPhone. If you have an iPhone, you can download an
application that instantaneously tells you. You put in the region where you are.
You're in the Northwest, because, like I said before, the Northwest and the Southeast are
going to call the same fish two different things.
You clarify it. It tells you and it's green, red, and yellow.
If it's "avoid," you push it, it tells you why you're avoiding it, and it can give you
a little alternative in certain circumstances, which is just an amazing tool.
So if we can kind of spread that kind of technology and that kind of mentality and utilize it.
When you're sitting in a restaurant, and you're about to order something.
Or you're going to a store and you're about to buy something, if you use these suggestive
purchasing directives, you're going to be doing a world of difference.
I was bringing you up for a reason. What was that?
Just to recognize you? Octopus, yeah that was it.
Any other questions? Did that answer your question?
I wish I had stronger -- There isn't an answer for everything.
We're at a critical point where we need to realize that the government isn't going to
do it for us. It's.
>> [inaudible]
Rick Moonen: I don't know the answer to that if they're consuming more than usual.
The answer is yes. I'm a single-subject focus.
I'm in a desert. I'm trying to get other fellow chefs to like,
grasp on to the concept of green. It's an amazing part of my life.
I've been talking about it for 20 years. I've kind of been the loose cannon, loud mouth,
talking about swordfish and Chilean sea bass. I'm walking down the street and fellow chefs
coming at me -- they cross the street, they don't want to hear what they can't serve on
their menu, you know, because it's hard to keep your finger on the pulse of it.
It's not impossible. Seafood Watch cards, applications on your
iPhone, a certain mentality. Eating lower on the food chain is actually
good for you, for your health. Because generally-speaking, they're high in
Omega-3's. They don't have high concentrations of methyl
mercury, dioxins, PCBs, because they haven't had a chance to.
So those are better for you, you know? Again, step outside your comfort zone.
Try something a little bit different other than the fish that are in the red, and you'll
find out that it can be delicious. And it's up to people like myself and people
in my industry to take sustainability and make it taste good.
But the one thing tonight that really disturbs me is, almost on every single year, I'll get
one or two phone calls from big journalists that want to know, "What's the next big fish?”
Because everybody wants to outdo the other and scoop it up and be the trend and be right.
But the real next big fish is "all together.” Let's see if we can't just mix it up.
I don't want, I mean, I could tell you about a fish that's being farmed in a sustainable
manner and it'll be out and it's called cobia and it's delicious.
And it is. But I don't want that to be the next targeted
fish, because then they're going to have to make so many farms that it's going to have
an impact on something. If we could just learn that diversity is the
answer to living in symbiosis with our ecosystem, we'd be so much better off.
Any other questions? Yeah.
Q I've read that, in a number of cases -- particularly catfish -- the farmed fish are
lower in Omega-3 fatty acids, because they're not eating stuff that's -- they're eating
whatever's the cheapest foods.
Rick Moonen: They're vegetarians.
Q Yeah.
Rick Moonen: Well, you have -- I don't know how the height of Omega-3s in tilapia, in
catfish. They're not as high as you're going to get
in the oil-laden fish like salmon, you know, mackerel, sardines.
These are the fish that are just dripping in Omega-3s, but you still have levels.
And they're completely environmentally friendly, you know.
But all catfish again isn't created equal. U.S. farm-raised catfish is probably the best
catfish you're going to get. Because outside of the United States, they
figure out cheaper ways of producing it -- overproducing it, taxing the environment
-- the fish aren't going to be as healthy. Animal welfare?
These fish are just jammed, filled, throw on this chemical -- well, you know, like to
regulate parasites or whatever else that needs to be regulated, or antibiotics, if there's
an outbreak of some sort. We have much tighter regulations in the United
States. So you're eating healthier fish, and you may
have to eat higher amounts of it to get the level of Omega-3s.
So there's some truth to it. Again, not all fish are created equal.
But those, being vegetarian, are considered some of the best alternatives or the best
farmed fish to eat. Any other? I can stay here all day and talk about this
stuff. You feel a little bit more comfortable?
Do you have a better understanding about seafood? Yes? All right.
Well, I appreciate you listening to me. I have a lot of information on Seafood Watch.
These are, you know, these are big, larger cards.
These are the kinds of things that I hang in my restaurant in my kitchen.
And it just kind of takes in all the different regions and all the different fish.
There's a lot of fish out there that we haven't tapped.
We know more about the outer space sometimes than we do about our own oceans.
And we really need to pay a lot more close attention to what's going on beneath the surface
of the water that covers most of our globe. And we can learn in a way that can be tasty,
and we can be responsible. It's all at our fingertips.
It's just a matter of us embracing it and making it a part of our lives.
And it's not that difficult. If I can do it, you can do it.
Thank you very much for listening. I appreciate it.
>> [Clapping]