Chef Barton Seaver

Eating Our Way Out of the Ocean’s Problems — A Chef’s Perspective

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August 15, 2011: Our special guest is National Geographic Fellow and acclaimed chef, author, and speaker Barton Seaver, who seeks to restore our relationship with the ocean, the land, and with each other through dinner. His new book is For Cod and Country: Simple, Delicious, Sustainable Cooking. If you’re not hungry, you will be by the end of this show! Also: A giant sea monster discovered in the UK and a close encounter with the largest animal that’s ever lived.

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Eating Our Way Out of the Ocean’s Problems — A Chef’s Perspective

Chef Barton Seaver

Chef Barton Seaver (Photo: Katie Stoops)

National Geographic Fellow and acclaimed chef, author, and speaker Barton Seaver wants to restore our relationship with the ocean, the land, and with each other through dinner.

Seaver’s childhood in Washington, D.C., centered around the family dinner table. After graduating with honors from the Culinary Institute of America, he traveled extensively and found work at a small family restaurant in southern Spain. The casual, ingredient-based cooking style there would prove to be an important influence in his perception of food as an essential part of community.

A transformative trip to Morocco landed him in the seaside village of Essaouiera, where survival is directly linked to the oceans. His experience with the locals, who taught him generationsold fishing methods, helped shape his belief that, at its root, sustainability is both an ecological and a humanitarian issue.

Seaver returned to D.C. in 2005 and began his career as a chef, first with Jos? Andr’s at Jaleo, then as executive chef of Caf? Saint-Ex and later at its sister restaurant, Bar Pilar. In 2007, Seaver became executive chef of the sustainable seafood restaurant Hook in Georgetown, which made Bon App?tit’s Top 10 Eco- Friendly Restaurants and the Washington Post’s Top 50, Washingtonian Magazine’s Top 100. In a single year, the restaurant served 78 species of seafood, and Seaver’s devotion to sustainability led to national media attention.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium recognizes Seaver as a sustainability leader, and in 2008 he received both the Seafood Choices Alliance’s Seafood Champion Award and the title ?Rising Culinary Star of the Year? from the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington. In 2009, he was named Esquire magazine’s Chef of the Year.

Chef Barton Seaver

The Chef at Work (Photo: Katie Stoops)

Since then, he has focused on using his knowledge and experience to link seafood to broader socioeconomic, ecological, health, and cultural issues. Locally he sits on the board of D.C. Central Kitchen, an organization fighting hunger through personal empowerment, job training, and life skills. He also collaborates with the School Nutrition Association, the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, Future of Fish, and other non-profit organizations supportive of his message that food is a catalyst for restoring health to ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

As a National Geographic Fellow, Seaver works with the global partnership initiative Mission Blue to increase awareness of the ocean crisis and inspire action. In 2010, he gave a TED Talk on sustainable seafood aboard the National Geographic Endeavour in Ecuador. He developed a list of ocean friendly substitutes for popular yet depleted seafood species, and co-created the Seafood Decision Guide to help consumers evaluate seafood based on health and environmental factors. Currently he hosts the National Geographic Web series Cook-Wise, where he introduces the fishermen, farmers, and scientists working to bring more sustainable food to the table.

Order Your Copy of Barton Seaver's, "For Cod and Country"

Click to Order Your Copy of Barton Seaver's, "For Cod and Country"

Seaver’s recipes and insights have been featured in Cooking Light, O: The Oprah Magazine, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Lonny Magazine, ChopChop, the Washington Post, Fortune,, American University’s Kogod Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He has appeared on CNN, NPR’s All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, and Bloomberg Radio. He is also a regular guest on the radio show National Geographic Weekend with host Boyd Matson.

His three-part television series In Search of Food tells the story of the locavore movement through local farmers, chefs, and food specialists in New York, San Francisco, and Minneapolis. The series premiered on the Ovation network in May 2011.

A highly sought speaker, Seaver has been invited to give lectures at Harvard University, Yale University, Culinary Institute of America, National Geographic, and Duke University, as well as serve on numerous conference panels, including at the Aspen Environmental Forum, Blue Vision Summit, the National Restaurant Association Annual Convention, the Seafood Choices Alliance Sustainable Seafood Summit, and the Savannah Oceans Exchange. He has been selected to give featured or keynote addresses at annual meetings for Basel World 2011, The Nature Conservancy, School Nutrition Association, American Culinary Federation, and American Fisheries Society.

Like Barton on Facebook?and follow him on?Twitter

Pink Salmon Cakes with Dill and Mustard
This has become a weeknight favorite at our house. The cakes are inexpensive and easy to put together. Add a side dish, and you have dinner for four.Two 7- to 8-ounce cans pink salmonSalt2 tablespoons mayonnaise2 teaspoons whole-grain mustardPinch of ground mace1/4 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs) or fine dried bread crumbs1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill2 tablespoons butterLemon wedgesPreheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Drain the salmon. Flake the fish into a bowl, being careful to remove any small bones or skin that may be mixed in. Season with salt and add the mayonnaise, mustard, mace, bread crumbs, and dill. Mix gently with your fingers until it is well combined. Form into four even patties about 1 inch thick and allow to sit for about 5 minutes to allow the bread crumbs to absorb the flavor.

In a large saut? pan over medium-high heat, heat the butter until foaming. Add the

salmon cakes and cook until they begin to turn golden on the edges, about 5 minutes. Don?t touch them while they?re browning. Once the edges have browned, transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 5 minutes to heat through. Flip the cakes onto plates and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 4

Photos by Katie Stoops; Images and recipes reprinted with permission from “For Cod and Country” ? 2011 by Barton Seaver, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.


Steamed Clams and Basil Pesto

Steamed shellfish work with so many different flavors. Here I top clams with a bright basil pesto. It is a super-easy preparation and makes an elegant and easy weeknight meal.3 dozen littleneck clams, rinsed thoroughly (discard any that won?t close)1 cup white wine1/2 cup Basil Pesto (recipe below)2 tablespoons butter1 crusty baguette, sliced and toastedPlace the clams and wine in a covered pot over high heat. As the broth begins to boil, gently stir the clams to ensure that they cook evenly.Once all the shells are open (discard any that haven’t opened after 5 minutes), remove the clams from the pot and place them in serving bowls, leaving as much of the broth in the pot as possible. Carefully pour the broth into a bowl, leaving any sand that has collected in the bottom of the pot. Add the pesto and butter to the clam broth and stir to combine. Pour over the clams and serve with toasted bread.Serves 4 as an appetizer or light entr?e

Basil Pesto

1 cup walnuts

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 cup canola oil (or, for added flavor, 3/4 cup canola oil plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil)

Leaves from 1 pound fresh basil


Spread the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in a preheated 350-degree oven for about 8 minutes. The nuts should be highly aromatic, and the thin skin should be flaky. Allow them to cool. Place the nuts in a colander and toss well with your hand to remove the flaky skin? it’s bitter and doesn?t pur?e very well, so it is best to get rid of as much as possible. After a minute of tossing, remove the cleaned nuts from the colander and discard any skin that has sloughed off.

Place the garlic and oil in a blender. Pur?e until the garlic is incorporated. (The garlic in the oil will help keep the basil bright green.) Add the basil leaves and pur?e until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Add the walnuts and pulse until the pesto is thick. Season to taste with salt.

Photos by Katie Stoops; Images and recipes reprinted with permission from For Cod and Country ? 2011 by Barton Seaver, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.


The Pliosaur “Sea Monster”


The Enormous Pliosaur (Image courtesy of BBC)

The Enormous Pliosaur (Image courtesy of BBC)


A Paddler’s Close Encounter with a Blue Whale


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1 reply
  1. Darris
    Darris says:

    I appreciate all that Chef Seaver has done to reduce the impact humans have on the ocean fish population. His example is a step towards a path of less environmental degradation.

    The ultimate way to a healthier planet is to eat no fish and no animals. Eating a plant-based, vegan diet is the most sustainable way to live lightly on our planet.

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