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Friday, 11 August 2017 14:37

A Successful Sustainable Seafood Dinner

Each year, the Sustainable Seafood Dinner (or, as it was known in the past, “Trash Fish”) aims to educate, inspire and, of course, satisfy some appetites. And this year’s event, held on Sunday, August 6th, may just have been the best one yet.


Sustainable Seafood Dinner

Louies Modern serves as the backdrop to an exciting evening, and this year, they were even kind enough to open up the whole ballroom for the event. The extra space made for a highly successful cocktail party, with four additional chef stations, a DJ, delicious craft beer booths from Calusa Brewing and Darwin Brewing Company, demonstrations by Two Docks Shellfish, and, of course, sustainability stations set up by Mote Marine and Seafood Watch.

Throughout the room were projectors with videos from Chefs Collaborative and Seafood Watch, featuring sustainability statistics. It was extremely encouraging seeing the engagement and interest from all who attended.

The cocktail party set the stage for a great beginning.

From there, guests moved into the dining room, with dinner starting promptly at 6:45pm - a record! The turnout was amazing, and everyone was thoroughly engaged and interested in learning more about making responsible dining decisions. Chef Steve even got to assist with a surprise proposal by Chef Mark Woodruff of Made Restaurant. (Congrats on the engagement, you two!)

“Overall, it was a big hit. My goal with this event is really to make sure the chefs get something out of it and feel inspired to make a real change,” said Chef Steve. “It’s encouraging to have people coming up to you saying, ‘Thanks for letting me a part of this. I learned a lot.’”

Chef Steve worked with the other chefs to ensure the menu was up to Seafood Watch’s standards, utilizing species in the green “Best Choices” category. (You can learn more about that here.) Everyone received pocket guides, and the chefs all downloaded the Seafood Watch app. (You should, too.)

“The more that people start knowing the app is out there, the better. There it is right in the palm of your hand. You can make responsible decisions right there at the store,” said Chef Steve. “Everyone that left the dinner has the opportunity to do that now.”

No rest for sustainability - planning for the next event is already underway! Chef Steve would like to thank Nikki Logan Curran and Tracy Freeman for working with him to put together another successful event - and, of course, Louies Modern for their generosity and Seafood Watch for promoting a healthier, happier planet.

“It was great to be able to point everyone in the right direction and push them forward,” said Chef Steve. “Next year, we’ll shoot to make it even bigger.”

But he’s not resting until then. Exciting things are in the works Stay tuned...

Steve Phelps, owner and executive chef at Indigenous, is joining Edible Sarasota to lead the fourth annual Sustainable Seafood Dinner, formerly known as Trash Fish, on Sunday, August 6, 2017 at Louies Modern. This event presents the opportunity to taste invasive species, learn about the landscape of sustainable seafood, and connect with leaders in the culinary community.


General admission tickets are $150 or $125 for Chefs Collaborative members. Tickets include a cocktail and hors d’oeuvres reception, followed by a six-course dinner prepared by 11 award-winning chefs, as well as a gift package. Tickets are available for purchase at bit.ly/trashfish2017.


This annual event aims to bring together the community and change the way seafood is consumed. Food professionals have the power to shift demand and influence consumers to make more responsible culinary decisions. Join Chef Steve Phelps, Edible Sarasota, and Chefs Collaborative to help build a stronger, more sustainable future.


Check out the Facebook event for more information.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 12:55

Indigenous Wins People's Choice Award!

Lionfish are skilled predators that are wreaking havoc on the marine ecosystem.


They’re beautiful. They’re dangerous. They’re delicious.


The population of local lionfish has spiked in the past few years. A popular aquarium fish, owners often get bored and release them into the waters. Females can lay up to two million eggs per year, causing this fish to take over Sarasota marine life.


While lionfish may never be 100% eradicated, Mote Marine and REEF are doing all they can to help with the issue. Each year, they host a Lionfish Derby, sending divers out to harvest as many lionfish as possible. This year, the divers brought in a record 1,079. (For reference, last year they brought in 429.)


Lionfish Derby

Last year’s event featured a cooking component for the first time. Chef Steve approached the organizers in 2015 about bringing together local restaurants to provide samples to attendees. It was a huge success.

“We started bringing lionfish into the restaurant about three years ago. We like the versatility of it and everything we could do with it. We started preparing it in a very simple manner, slicing it thin, eating it raw, tartar style, ceviches. It’s such a white, white meat that we’re able to use it in some different forms,” Phelps said.

Five restaurants cooked up inventive dishes that incorporated lionfish in an effort to educate the public, not only on the importance of eradicating this invasive species, but also to spread a love for its taste. A dish you can truly feel good about enjoying. Delicious and sustainable. Win-win.

Indigenous was proud to take home the People’s Choice Award this year! Chef Steve’s lionfish served on garlic toast was a hit.

The Lionfish Derby is a great event, and we’re proud to be a part of it. Together, we can make a difference. It is vital that we work toward creating a fishery for lionfish, whether through traps or other inventive techniques, to chip away at this harmful population, create jobs for coastal communities and better our economy.

We’re proud to serve sustainable seafood at Indigenous. Click here to check out our new menu.

Indigenous has been recognized for its role in promoting good food and sustainable food systems on the first annual Good Food 100 Restaurants List from the Good Food Media Network.


The list is based on self-reported annual food purchasing data, independently verified by NSF Responsible Sourcing. Restaurants are rated with two to six links—symbolizing links in the food chain—based on the percent of total food costs spent to support state, regional and national ‘good food’ producers and purveyors. Indigenous earned a perfect score of six links. A corresponding economic assessment conducted by the Business Research Division, Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder measuring the dollar impact locally, regionally and nationally by these restaurants will be available this summer.


“We applaud the Good Food Media Network on its efforts to encourage sustainability and responsibility in menu preparation,” said Steve Phelps. “It’s an honor to be recognized on the inaugural list.”


“Consumers are making a concerted effort to be aware of where their food is coming from. Now diners can select where they want to eat not solely based on a critic’s pick, Yelp review or best-of lists, but by which restaurants are actively contributing to the betterment of our food system through sustainable purchasing practices. The Good Food 100 is not only a compilation of these restaurants, it’s a celebration of them,” said Sara Brito, co-founder and president, Good Food Media Network. “Congratulations to all of this year’s participants. We look forward to expanding this list even more and honoring the many wonderful restaurants and food service businesses that are positively impacting every link in the food chain.”


Keeping with their mission of conscientious sourcing, Indigenous’ menu of seasonal American cuisine changes throughout the year based on ingredient availability. The restaurant was meticulously restored to complement its surroundings, the historic Towles Court district in downtown Sarasota. Inspired by Chef Phelps’ passion for food, the planet and the community, Indigenous uses perfectly executed techniques and carefully sourced local, sustainable and seasonal ingredients to give guests a unique and conscious dining experience.


Nearly 90 restaurants from 25 states participated in the national pilot survey. To learn more about the Good Food 100 and all the restaurants, visit the Good Food 100 website.


Methodology: Restaurants were segmented into five groups based on their respective level of good food purchases as a percentage of overall food purchases. The top cohort reporting good food purchases earned six rings—meaning that they reported the greatest percentage of good food purchases among the participating restaurants. The next cohort earned five rings and so on. Restaurants earning two rings reported some good food purchases. Those who participated but reported no good food purchases were designated as a “2017 participant.”

Friday, 16 June 2017 20:18

Chef Steve Returns from the Hill

“The slightest thing -- removing an apostrophe -- it could ruin everything we’ve built in the last 40 years.”


Chef Steve has returned from a whirlwind trip to Capitol Hill, where he had the honor of joining the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Blue Ribbon Task Force in defending the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) from potentially catastrophic changes.


Established in 1976, the MSA is the principal law governing United States fisheries. The Act protects our oceans from overfishing and ensures we don’t deplete our natural resources.


“It’s how we became the world leader in sustainable fisheries,” said Chef Steve. “We created a model of science-based management. There’s no arguing with it.”


Congress is considering two major bills that would drastically change the MSA -- HR 200 and HR 2023. HR 200 would reduce rebuilding requirements, exempt hundreds of species from annual catch limits and undercut the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. HR 2023 aims to modernize recreational fishery management, which would open up the waters to automated fishing methods, including FADs, fish attracting devices.


“Basically, it would allow people to fish with robotic equipment that can’t make human decisions.”


With so much at stake, the Blue Ribbon Task Force made a much needed trip to Capitol Hill to have their voices heard.

“90% of the fish consumed in the United States is imported from overseas. People are not paying attention. And it’s time that they do.”


There’s a larger issue that many people don’t see. If the MSA is weakened, the hospitality industry will fail, chefs will fail, and the United States will have to import even more seafood.


“This isn’t just about fishing equipment. It’s about human rights; it’s about illegal pollution…” said Chef Steve. “If these changes to the MSA are approved, we’ll go back to overfishing. Our population will deplete. Future generations may never get to experience the joys of fishing.”


Even big corporations like WalMart, Target and Compass Group have switched to sustainable US fisheries. Changes to the MSA could mean major business failure.


Which is why this trip was so important.


“Overall, the trip was incredibly productive and successful. The impact was amazing. You could see it in their eyes.”


Chef Steve’s last meeting was especially impactful.


Jeffrey Lewis, a senior counsel to the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, was all ears. With red snapper issues currently plaguing the fishing world, Steve was able to have a meaningful conversation with someone who really gets it -- and he even had the chance to pitch a powerful idea. But more on that later…


Overall, it was an amazing trip to Washington, D.C.


“The reception was awesome. Everyone was so engaged -- even the staffers. They all want to come to our restaurants now. And I think they will.”

Chef Steve Phelps is among a small group selected by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to travel to Washington, D.C. this month to engage in a dialogue regarding proposed changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

“I am honored to take part in this discussion,” said Phelps. “Changes to this legislation would have a direct impact, not only on my business, but on businesses nationwide.”

The Magnuson-Stevens Act, established in 1976, is the principal law governing marine fisheries in the United States. Its main objectives are to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, increase long-term economic and social benefits, and ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood.

Congress is currently considering legislation to modify the Magnuson-Stevens Act, notably H.R. 200 and H.R. 2023. The proposed bills would give regional fishery management councils the authority to relax seasonal timelines and adjust catch limits when environmental conditions and unusual occurrences could potentially interfere with bringing fish back.

“The MSA was enacted to ensure sustainability and cement the United States as the top competitor in the seafood industry,” said Phelps. “It is vital we keep this Act intact. The country’s success depends on it.”

Phelps will travel to Washington, D.C. on June 11, along with representatives from the Jacksonville Fish House and Border Grill, to defend the Act as it currently stands to U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017 17:12

Chef Steve Puts a New View on Mullet

MulletIndigenousSarasotaMullet, a star performer, has been a popular food choice for thousands of years, but in recent years has lost a bit of its shine. The seafood market is evolving and a heavy influx of other options has seemingly better suited people. Commercially fished off of our warm, Florida coastal waters, mullet (specifically grey-striped) has proven years later to still serve as a worthy meal in the most exclusive fine dining restaurants. With an average weight of 2 - 3 pounds (some weighing even up to 6 pounds) and its easy availability, it is understandable why this seemingly common fish would be overlooked.

However, experienced Chef Steve Phelps of Indigenous in Sarasota Florida, has seen the lack of knowledge regarding consumption of the mullet family. Most commonly known for being smoked, this oily fish measures high in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, and can be grilled, poached, or even delightfully roasted. Interestingly, unlike some fish, you do not have to wait for the right time of the year to find mullet. They can conveniently be found throughout every season.

With its key health benefits and convenient availability in mind, it can be concluded that the importance of adequately educating chefs from all around the world to effectively cook mullet and re-introduce it to the public is vital. With this growing knowledge Chef Steve has hired people to work in his kitchen based solely on the increasing need for mullet preparation. At Indigenous you will find that it’s served with a new energy, yet still a timeless and delicious taste. Not only has Chef Steve created much needed job openings, but he has also invested in giving a delightful dish full of flavor to those who visit his restaurant. After all, we believe that the best way to cook anything is through creatively preparing all of our appealing dishes.

This seemingly insignificant fish has just made a comeback, and this is only the beginning.

LionfishInvasiveSpeciesAquatic life near Sarasota is under attack. A horrific new problem has arrived on our shores in the form of the Lionfish species of fish entering our channels and wreaking havoc on other species of fish and water-based life.

A Predatory Fish
Lionfish are a venomous fish species that are native to the Red Sea and the Indo-Pacific ocean. They are an invasive species that are beautiful to look at, but can cause severe harm to any marine life they encounter. Lionfish are skilled predators and have a voracious appetite. They hunt down and eat any type of fish or invertebrate they can find. In addition, their bodies have a defense mechanism in the form of venomous spines, that can cause a great deal of pain and injury to any human that encounters them.

These fish are a popular choice for aquariums and fish tanks because of their attractive appearance, but are often dumped in nearby water bodies once the owner gets bored. As a result, a rapid increase in the population of local Lionfish has been observed in the last few years. Another main reason for this is that Lionfish are capable of reproducing all year long, with females producing more than 50,000 eggs every three days.

Method of Removal
With such rapid expansion, it's become near impossible to contain the local population of Lionfish. Additionally, their indiscriminate eating habits has resulted in the severe reduction in population of other fish species found nearby. Professional fishers have been searching for ways to counter the Lionfish menace for many years now.

The strategy that needs to be adopted now to keep the Lionfish population in check is to harvest their population. Traditional hook-and-line fishing methods can be used to catch the fish, and special permits can be obtained for using more sophisticated fishing traps. This method of physical removal requires a great deal of time investment, and has the best chance of succeeding if the entire community comes together.

Chef Steve of the restaurant Indigenous is greatly experienced in taking Lionfish and turning it into delicious dishes, such as his Ceviche dish which uses sea purslane grown in a local sustainable aquaponics system.

AquacultureRedDrumOver 91 percent of the seafood sold in the United States is imported from other countries.The red drum fish however, is a species that is native to our Sarasota waters. It is a tasty, white-filleted fish, but for years, you could not purchase it locally since it is a restricted species. If you or a restaurant wanted to purchase red drum, it would have to be from a supplier that sourced the fish from Vietnam, which is not even a region where red drum is naturally found. At Indigenous, this does not align with our philosophy and commitment to providing our customers with the freshest seafood from local and sustainable sources.

Aquaculture is the Answer
In the past aquaculture has been met with mixed opinions mainly because it is not fully understood. According to Dr. Kevan Main, senior scientist and program manager for Mote Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program:“Red drum is a perfect fish for aquaculture as they adapt well to cultured environments. Our Mote breeders know how to spawn them, we know the steps of production, what they eat, what density of fish per unit area, and so on.”

With over 30 years of experience in aquaculture research, Dr. Main is running Mote’s project growing marine fish, including red drum that will be new technology into the hands of regional aqua-farmers. The breeders at Mote are growing red drum in an environment that mimics their natural environment, including native sea plants like sea purslane.

Protecting Threatened Species and Jobs
Aquaculture is essential to protecting and maintaining a sustainable supply of many of the types of seafood that are native to our waters. Overfishing and invasive species, including the destructive lionfish have resulted in having to list many of the shellfish and fish native to Florida waters as restricted species to protect them from extinction.

The restrictions on what fish and shellfish can be caught has been bad for the fishing and restaurant industry in terms of job loss and having to pay higher prices for seafood. This is bad for the economy and causes restaurants to have to recoup their expenses by passing those costs onto their customers. Supporting aquaculture is good for the economy since it creates jobs and keeps a steady supply of sustainable seafood available to consumers and restaurants.

MulletFilmLogoMany health experts recommend eating fish twice a week to improve your overall health. Since October is National Seafood Month, it’s a great time to promote sustainable seafood and fisheries. National Seafood Month is also an opportunity to depict the successes and challenges facing U.S. fisheries as they seek to end overfishing and begin to rebuild fish stocks. There are so many amazing stories to hear.

This year’s Eat Local Week in Sarasota will feature a one night event, open to the public, of a free screening of the film,“Mullet: A Tale of Two Fish”. The screening will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the Mote's WAVE Center, and following the film there will be an expert panel discussion. Mullet: A Tale of Two Fish is about the history of the mullet, from its prominence as a food source for Native Americans to its influence on modern day commercial fishing and cuisine.

Panelists will include:

  • Indigenous' Chef Steve Phelps

  • Dr. Kenneth Leber, Associate Vice President for Research and Program Manager of Mote's Fisheries Ecology and Enhancement;

  • Dr. Kevan Main, program manager of Mote's Marine & Freshwater Aquaculture Research Program

  • Ed Chiles of Chiles Restaurant Group and partner in the Anna Maria Fish Company;

  • Nathan Meschelle, a local fisherman

Outside of this one time event, Chef Steve Phelps is active in the seafood awareness community on the day to day. Chef Steve is a member of the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force. This organization’s mission it to empower businesses and consumers to make the right choices for a healthier ocean. Participating in local events like this panel and national organizations like Monterey Bay Seafood Watch help Chef stay involved the efforts that he promotes in his restaurant. Eating locally sourced food not only supports the local economy, it also promotes a safe food supply.

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