Alton is an award-winning cookbook author and the creator of three much-loved Food Network television programs. He was the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s 2009 Honored Educator of the Year. His next book, Good Eats: The Middle Years, will be published in October 2010.Where did the inspiration for this recipe come from?
From the salmon actually. All I tried to do was increase the flavors that are already there; enhance them without actually getting in the way.
Do you have any words of wisdom for the home cook who is just learning to cook seafood?
Buy good fish and cook it as simply as you can. Oily fish like wild salmon, mackerel and black cod are good beginner fish because they're quite forgiving of overcooking...as long as you don't incinerate them.
You've become a passionate advocate for sustainable seafood. When did you decide this was really important to you?
I've always been fascinated with the sea and its life and as a cook seafood has always been near and dear to me. But I didn't get on this band wagon until my daughter Zoey, who's 10 now, became interested in marine biology. Through her eyes I started to see how urgently we need to change our attitudes and actions regarding stewardship of the seas.
If you had only a few minutes to convince someone that selecting sustainable seafood is important, what would you say?
I would argue that sustainable seafood actually tastes better. And I'd argue that it's better for you nutritionally.
I understand you've started to incorporate messages about sustainable seafood into your TV shows?
"Messages" makes it sound as though I'm preaching. I'm not. I just tell folks the facts. My fans are smart...they can take it from there.
People who watch your shows love the creative way you convey stories. How have you overcome the challenge of delving into big concepts like ocean health?
You have to chop up big issues into smaller issues and deal with them one by one. Then, if you can, you add humor. In one show, we dealt with the idea of farming salmon by comparing it to trying to farm lions, which have a comparable feed conversion rate. The scene was pretty hilarious as I attempted to dole out "lion chow" to a dozen lions. We couldn't afford full-sized lion puppets so we just made the tales which stuck up, waving in the shot. In the end of course I'm pounced upon (luckily full-size stuffed lions are available these days) and devoured. Funny.
What do you think about the idea of "voting" with our dollars when it comes to food choices?
Voting with our dollars is the only way to change the dynamic of this situation. Unless of course you have a battle-ready submarine. If you have one of those...well, that's a conversation for another time.
This recipe features salmon--a very popular fish, but I hear you're a big fan of sardines, which are not as well known. Tell me more.
They're delicious and amazingly healthy. I lost 50 pounds last year and I attribute that mostly to eating a heck of a lot of sardines. I'm also a fan of eating lower on the marine food chain and sardines fit the fill. So do herring, which I'm also fond of.
I've heard a rumor that you might have a new cookbook about fish in the works. If true, can you tell us about it?
I've started amassing data for that book but I'm also pondering a documentary about tuna which may have to come first.
Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to add?
Sustainability tastes good...real good. It tastes great in fact.