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Food Writer’s Diary
Bret Thorn interviews Chef Kerry Heffernan in the latest installment of In the Kitchen with Bret Thorn.

Kerry Heffernan discusses sustainable seafood and dockside cooking for Grand Banks, Pilot and Island Oyster Bar restaurants

The former Eleven Madison Park chef shares strategies for working with underutilized fish

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or SoundCloud.

This podcast was recorded before the Covid-19 outbreak hit the United States, but it remains relevant as we mostly discussed sustainable seafood, and that’s a topic we’re going to be coping with for years to come.

Kerry Heffernan is an expert on the subject as director of sustainability initiatives and executive chef for Summer Ops, which runs Grand Banks on a schooner moored to Manhattan’s Pier 25 on the Hudson River as well as Island Oyster on Governor’s Island and Pilot on a boat on Pier 6 in Brooklyn, on the East River.

All of the restaurants offer raw bars, small plates and seafood, all of it focused on sustainability, of course. The health of the ocean is something Heffernan takes personally, since he has a house on the shore in Sag Harbor on Long Island, and he’s seen how the availability of some fish has declined while others have flourished.

“I’m in it on a regular basis, so I can see the difference from ten years ago, when we had a lot of good-sized striped bass right in the cove behind my house. [Now] very few of the larger fish are around,” he said.

He also grows oysters under his dock, “where I got to see very vividly what was happening in the water column. … You get a very tactile sense of what’s happening in the water. Ergo the involvement that I sort of put myself into.”

Heffernan gives advice for working with fish such as porgy, sea robin and dogfish, and has this to say about what seafood we should be eating:

“We should eat more-or-less what the sea gives us. So if you go out fishing and you can’t catch striped bass, but you’re catching sea robin, let’s learn how to make the sea robins taste good.”

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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