NAME: Becky Selengut
OCCUPATION: Private chef, cooking teacher, author
ON BEING ALLERGIC TO GARLIC: “I love garlic…it just hates me!”
FAVORITE RECIPE IN THE NEW BOOK: “The scallop crudo, because of its simplicity and restraint. Made with scallop, orange, mint, good olive oil and good sea salt—it’s creamy and delicious.”
BOOK BONUS: Every recipe includes a pairing by her wife, April Pogue, a sommelier at Tilikum Place Café and Wild Ginger.
You might recognize Capitol Hill–based chef Becky Selengut, 40, from her stints as chef at noted local restaurants Osteria La Spiga, La Medusa and The Herbfarm. Or maybe from the cooking classes she teaches at PCC and her business, Cornucopia (cornucopiacuisine.com). Or perhaps you’ve read her funny foodie blog, ChefReinvented.com. If you haven’t met her yet, it’s time—Selengut’s new cookbook, Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast (Sasquatch Books, $29.95), a go-to guide for buying quality seafood and making it tasty, comes out next month.
SM: How did your interest in sustainable seafood emerge?
BS: I grew up on a lake, I fished as a kid and when I was older I took a chef job on a boat to Alaska. At The Herbfarm I naturally gravitated toward fish and became the on-site fish girl. I just love eating fish, but I also care about ethical eating. I don’t want to just blindly eat; I want to be teaching every day about eating responsibly.
SM: Why don’t more restaurants focus on sustainable seafood?
BS: I feel the “please the customer” attitude takes priority over some of these important issues. But providing clean, sustainable fish is being responsible toward customers. Also, many chefs refuse to change. Chefs need to be more creative! Some of the local fish are truly delicious.
SM: So what seafood should we buy?
BS: It’s more than just knowing what species to buy. It’s a complicated topic, but don’t get overwhelmed. First and foremost, buy domestic. Avoid farmed salmon, but remember, farmed shellfish is great and so is U.S.-farmed tilapia, char and trout. Then, support corporations and restaurants that have a commitment to sustainable practices and let them to do the hard work of figuring out which product is best.
SM: What do you hope people learn from your book?
BS: First, I hope people feel less confused about what sustainable seafood is and have some tools to approach it. Second, I want them to have some recipes that they are in love with—I hope they taste it, their eyes get big, and they go “Wow!” Finally, I hope they laugh, because I’ve put my personality in the book and I want them to enjoy the read.
Cant't wait to get your copy of Good Fish? Becky shares the recipe for her favorite dish from the book: scallops with orange, mint and olive oil.
And check out Becky's website for how-to videos on shucking oysters, boning fish and more!