Susan Spicer is the chef and owner of Bayona (and owner of Herbsaint and Cobalt) in New Orleans. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, Bayona is a nationally acclaimed restaurant featuring the flavors of the Mediterranean while incorporating tastes from around the world. Herbsaint is an upscale bistro offering contemporary French and American cuisine. And the focus of Cobalt, the most recent of Spicer’s ventures, is contemporary Southern food.
What is your favorite seafood to eat?
Fresh crabs and crawfish.
What is your favorite seafood to prepare at the restaurant?
Shrimp. That’s because Louisiana is a very shellfish-friendly place. Oysters are also another favorite.
What's the most popular seafood dish on your menu?
It would have to be shrimp. We do a grilled shrimp appetizer that’s our best seller.
How did you get interested in the issue of sustainable seafood?
Mainly through the Chef's Collaborative. But I also gained a general awareness of the issues by having been a chef for twenty-something years and through talking with seafood purveyors. I’ve become very aware of the dwindling supply of seafood.
Specifically, how important is salmon to you and to your restaurant? Salmon is one of those fish that’s available all the time now, so you’ll find it on many menus, including ours. I prefer to use the Pacific wild salmon
How would you describe your philosophy on ocean conservation?
I am concerned about the ocean; my philosophy focuses on trying to work with the underutilized species.
How has your philosophy changed what fish you serve at your restaurant?
It has affected it. Some of the changes have been enforced, while some have been by choice. For example, when redfish was overfished here in the Gulf area, we started looking at using underutilized types of fish. So that was kind of a forced issue, because they had outlawed the redfish for commercial use. In terms of a more voluntary change, we stopped serving swordfish for an extended period of time during the “Give Swordfish a Break” campaign.
Have your diners noticed?
Yes, I think they have. I mainly try to communicate my philosophy through what I serve, but I also talk to my customers about it.
Do you feel it limits what you can offer?
No. I prefer to see it as more of a creative challenge. It’s more fun to think of it that way. We’ve begun to use many different types of seafood down here, such as sheephead. You have to be a little bit creative in order to sell some of these other types of seafood.
Have your seafood purveyors worked with you on getting sustainably caught seafood?
Not as much as I would like them to. I feel like the purveyors here in New Orleans could be a bit more cosmopolitan in their thought process. I have invited my purveyors here to talk about some of these issues, though.
Why do you support Seafood Choices Alliance?
Because I think that being a chef today is about more than just getting in the kitchen and cooking. I think, unfortunately, that with our limited world resources, we’re obliged as part of our local as well as global community to stay up-to-date on what the situation is.
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