Pamela Burns, Wild Plum Café & Bistro

Chef & Restaurateur

For chef Pamela Burns at the Wild Plum in Monterey “fish of the day” means just that: fresh, local fish recently brought to the dock by someone who lives along the same shore as she. It’s not a placeholder for fish long forgotten in the freezer with a source obscured by time and middlemen.

“If it’s not sustainable, if it’s not local, and if it’s not something I can sign off on philosophically then I just can’t serve it,” Burns says.

Since 1999, the Wild Plum café, bistro and bakery has brought European-influenced, rustic Americana cuisine to downtown Monterey with an unpretentious, at-home atmosphere and reasonable prices.

In the process she has developed loyal customers who come in to have a cappuccino and read a newspaper, snack on a fresh baked good, a hearty bowl of soup or to sit down for a full meal sourced from local and organic ingredients.

“We’re an everyman cafe,” Burns says of her business. “At the same time we’ve been doing farm-to-table before it was a word.”

Burns is also a co-founder of Slow Money Monterey Bay, a group that seeks to build the community and economic resilience through investment in entrepreneurs, farms and...fishermen.

On any given day there’s typically only one kind of fish on the menu: king salmon, halibut, striped bass, black bass, or whatever the fishermen are landing.

Yet, much can be done with a fish recently pulled from the sea. The Wild Plum serves fish tacos; “catch and eggs” with baked eggs, country potatoes and a caper relish; a smoked fish platter with house-baked bread and pickled vegetables, and pan-seared catch of the day served on a bed of greens. A Cobb salad with fresh fish will soon be introduced to the menu, Burns says.

“It’s easier to eat local now than when I started the Wild Plum 20 years ago,” Burns says. “But it’s only recently gotten easier to find local fish.”