Fishermen Take Center Stage During Get Hooked Restaurant Week

By Kathryn McKenzie | Edible Monterey Bay

January 8, 2019

Local seafood—and the people who catch it—will be in the spotlight beginning Monday at more than a dozen Monterey Peninsula restaurants during the first-ever Get Hooked restaurant week, part of California Restaurant Month.  

From January 14-21, the Get Hooked campaign is luring residents and visitors alike to try seasonal local fish at restaurants in Monterey, Carmel and Pacific Grove, with sweet, flaky rockfish and rich, buttery sablefish taking center stage.

It’s all part of an effort to link local chefs with local fishermen, and to show diners how important it is to eat freshly harvested seafood that comes from Monterey Bay—supporting the region’s commercial fishing industry as well as celebrating the best of what’s right here.

Fisherman Jerry Wetle who operates fishing vessel (F/V) Pacific Bully holding up a haul of trap-caught sablefish (aka black cod).

Shockingly, 90 percent of the seafood that is consumed in the United States is imported, according to Roger Burleigh, marketing and supply chain manager for the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust. But because of the way the seafood supply chain is set up, it’s often difficult for restaurants to break the habit of buying from large but distant suppliers.

“Monterey Bay provides an abundance of sustainable seafood options,” says Burleigh. “We want to draw attention back to our local seafood bounty and the incredible fishermen who catch it.”  

As he points out, Monterey Bay restaurants pride themselves on serving the best in area produce and other items, and local seafood should be just as vital to their menus: “It’s really about providing the experience of this place.”

Carmel Valley Ranch’s preparation of Jerry’s (pictured above) catch. Photo credit: Carmel Valley Ranch.

Carmel Valley Ranch’s preparation of Jerry’s (pictured above) catch. Photo credit: Carmel Valley Ranch.

During Get Hooked week, participating restaurants will serve up specials and regular menu items featuring rockfish and sablefish (also known as black cod). They’ll post the names of fishermen and fishing vessels that caught the fish that’s being served. You can also go to the Get Hooked website at www.gethookedmontereybay.com to see profiles of fishermen along with a list of all the restaurants and chefs.

Get Hooked came about when Real Good Fish CEO and founder Alan Lovewell brought together representatives from the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust and others to explore how to promote Monterey Bay seafood. Numerous local and regional organizations have thrown their support into the effort, including the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the nonprofit trade association Positively Groundfish, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Santa Cruz’s Ocean2Table.

Fortuitously, Get Hooked was able to tie into California Restaurant Month, a celebration of cuisine taking place throughout the Golden State in January. Dozens of destinations are hosting restaurant weeks and special events, shining a light on talented food producers, chefs and eateries in each region.  

Monterey restaurants taking part in Get Hooked include: The Sardine Factory, Paluca Trattoria, Old Fisherman’s Grotto, the Fish Hopper, Scales Seafood & Drinks, the Wild Plum Café & Bistro, the C Restaurant + Bar, The Restaurant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Montrio Bistro; in Pacific Grove, Wild Fish and Poppy Hall; and in Carmel, Etats-Unis French American Bistro, the Valley Kitchen at Carmel Valley Ranch, and the Forge. (Wild Fish has already been acknowledging fishermen in this way, Burleigh says.)

Get Hooked restaurant week is also a perfect opportunity to celebrate the comeback of rockfish, whose stocks had been seriously depleted but are now healthy and thriving in the bay. In fact, notes Burleigh, quota limits for rockfish were recently increased so now fishermen are able to catch and sell more.

“It’s time to reward the hard work and tenacity of local fishermen, who have changed their practices to support a sustainable groundfish harvest,” says Barbara Meister, public affairs director at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “We invite diners to share in this conservation success story by enjoying a taste of Monterey Bay’s best fish.”

All of the featured fish are recommended by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and rated as either a Best Choice or Good Alternative. 

Honing in on local seafood is an ideal fit for the Monterey Peninsula, since it’s historically been an important center for fishing. “What better place to do this, with our focus on conservation and a rich heritage of commercial fishing,” says Burleigh.

Roger Burleigh