Chefs have the influence to educate our palates and our views. Through Smart Catch, they are becoming new environmental heroes, as they use their influence to lead industry efforts to maintain healthy, sustainable food sources both now and for future generations.
Susan Ungaro, former president, James Beard Foundation
ADDRESS CHALLENGES BY THINKING DIFFERENTLY
- Active: 2014-2016
- Funder: Vulcan
- Program Area: Oceans
Unsustainable fishing practices threaten the health and integrity of global marine ecosystems. At the same time, the seafood supply chain does not provide a way to trace fish as it travels from where it’s caught to the consumer’s plate.
To change that, we first partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Its Seafood Watch program provides a reference guide that gives consumers useful information on various fish species they can use when buying at the retail level.
But additional work was also needed when it came to restaurants, so we teamed with Smart Catch, a Seattle-based pilot project designed by chefs, for chefs. Its goal is to increase the amount of sustainable seafood being served on restaurant menus. It provides chefs with the resources and training needed to make smart seafood purchasing decisions — which has a positive impact on the seafood supply chain. By agreeing to specific criteria, including improving the percentage of sustainable seafood served (as validated through supplier invoices), participating chefs can market themselves as Smart Catch restaurants. Now, by supporting a Smart Catch chef, consumers can fuel positive changes in our oceans and improve food security.
The program was an immediate success. During its first year of operation, 83 Seattle restaurants signed on as Smart Catch providers (that equated to 200,000 pounds of sustainable seafood sold every week) and each one of them met or exceeded their goal of providing 80% of seafood from sustainable sources.
To scale this successful pilot to the national level, the program was transitioned to the James Beard Foundation as part of its Chef Action Network in 2017. Today more than 300 restaurants in 28 states and 13 leading seafood suppliers are part of Smart Catch, furthering our original goal of creating more informed consumers and encouraging sustainable fishing practices.
: Fish Choice, Flip Labs, James Beard Foundation