Chef Steve is on a mission to change the food industry. It all comes back to his passion for food, the planet and the community. Carefully sourced local, sustainable, seasonal ingredients served in a building that perfectly complements its surroundings - it doesn’t get much better than that.
But today, we’re proud to announce that it has...
After four years of hard work, Indigenous has officially entered into a formal partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, committing to serve only seafood caught or farmed in ocean-friendly ways.
This accomplishment places Indigenous on a short list of partners here in Sarasota who have been approved. In fact, Indigenous is the only Sarasota-based restaurant partner currently on the list. Whole Foods Market, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and START Seafood Savvy Program are the only other businesses in Sarasota to earn the partnership.
“Seafood Watch is proud to welcome Indigenous as its newest partner,” said Seafood Watch Director, Jennifer Dianto-Kemmerly. “Working together is critical to help create healthy and abundant oceans that will continue to supply us with food, help regulate our climate, and provide a livelihood for millions of people."
Seafood Watch empowers consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans. Using science-based, peer reviewed methods, Seafood Watch assesses how wild-caught and farmed seafood affect the environment and provides recommendations indicating which items are “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives,” and which ones to “Avoid.”
As a Seafood Watch restaurant partner, Indigenous pledges to serve only seafood rated a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” and to educate its customers, suppliers and employees about sustainability issues.
“We are so incredibly proud to have been approved as a Seafood Watch partner,” said Chef Steve. “It was a lengthy battle, as the requirements are extremely strict. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come.”
By partnering with Seafood Watch, Indigenous reflects its awareness about growing public concern with how our seafood choices affect the world’s fish populations and the impact of seafood production on ocean health. More than 50% of U.S. consumers say that buying sustainable seafood is personally important.
“We are committed to providing our diners a unique, conscious dining experience,” said Chef Steve. “Through this partnership, our customers can rest assured they’re making responsible culinary decisions when they visit us at Indigenous.”
Seafood Watch science is referenced by more than 1,000 businesses at 150,000 locations worldwide to help inform their purchasing decisions. Indigenous joins hundreds of partners entering into an official partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and actively working with its Business Outreach program to help shift the market toward environmentally responsible fisheries and aquaculture operations.
Patrons around the world can find other businesses that are practicing sustainability by visiting the Partners section of the Seafood Watch Program’s website. We also recommend downloading the Seafood Watch app for recommendations on sustainable seafood.
“It’s been a long journey, and it’s all led to this,” said Chef Steve. “Our focus on sustainability has always differentiated us from the crowd. We’re proud to be able to offer the Sarasota community a place to enjoy good food responsibly, surrounded by others who care about making a difference.”
Interested in joining us for dinner? Give us a call at 941.706.4740 to make a reservation.
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.
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.
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.)
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.”
“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.
The mission to change the food industry starts in the school cafeteria.
Each year, Chefs Move to Schools aims to challenge students to rethink the food they eat. Chef Steve has been involved in the past two annual events.
“I first got involved when the county asked me,” said Chef Steve. “We’re gaining momentum, and schools are starting to make some really good relationships with local farms to get good produce.”
But there’s still work to do.
“The biggest problem lies with the meats.”
Specifically fabricated and commodity meats.
“It’s a matter of follow-through,” said Chef Steve. “Doing it is great, but we can’t not see them again for a year. We need to talk through it, have more check-ins, dedicate the time and energy. There’s still so much work to do. But the program is a great start.”
The students were a joy to work with. They were incredibly interested in discussing food, nutrition - they even reacted with a unanimous, enthusiastic ‘yes’ when Chef Steve asked if they liked broccoli.
“It was really cool to see the kids get excited about vegetables. I was like, ‘What?’ Alright, then. Let’s make some broccoli meatballs.”
Chef Steve worked with six kids total - all fourth and fifth graders, and all very enthusiastic and interested in learning whatever they could. The excitement is there, and the program is a great start. But it needs more funding.
“As chefs, we’re starting to look to see how we can help them out. When we think about fundraisers, we’ll start to pay attention to that. Food programs are very scarce. It was a good way for people to pay attention to what’s really going on.”
The turnout was great, with more than 100 people in attendance. The chefs are working hard to mobilize community awareness and drive donations.
“My next steps? Community supported fishery programs. We need to cut through the red tape. We have a lot of fish that people can get to the schools, so we need to figure out how to make that happen. I’m working on that mission right now. That’s the conversation that’s going on, and that’s the conversation we need to be having.”
Chef Steve is dedicated to using his chef power and knowledge to reshape food programs in our schools.
“If we can get a chef to be committed to each school, we could make some really good changes. It’s just about getting people involved.”
Mullet, 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.
Aquatic 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.