Chef Joshua Skenes
Chef Joshua Skenes

Why You’ll Soon Be Eating Seafood You’ve Never Heard Of

Top restaurants are championing obscurities like sand dabs, jellyfish, and farm-raised Kindai bluefin tuna.

While certain “luxury” foods—truffles, caviar, Kobe A5 beef—have long been part of fine-dining menus, some of America’s top chefs are starting to flaunt their creativity by featuring a wider range of exotic ingredients. Many of them come from the sea.

At the $5,500-a-ticket Rarities of the Sea dinner at March 2018’s GourmetFest in Carmel, California, chef Kyle Connaughton from nearby SingleThread served farm-raised Kindai bluefin tuna to encourage dialogue on issues regarding seafood scarcity and sustainability.

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Chef Joshua Skenes, whose flagship San Francisco restaurant Saison has earned three Michelin stars for the last four years, opened Angler in September with a 28-foot-wall of fish tanks. Rather than focus on popular fish like salmon and cod, his menus feature obscure seasonal products like sand dabs and jellyfish.

While many chefs lack the scope or inclination to source and maintain live seafood, a growing number of community-supported fisheries are supplying them with same-day catches that are “in rigor” (rigor mortis, optimal freshness). Dock to Dish, which has multiple U.S. and international collectives, is one example; soon the New York operation will also be adding locally grown kelp to its deliveries.

And when top restaurants champion new foods—like gelidiella, another edible seaweed—they start to appear everywhere along the food chain.

“It's our responsibility,” says Skenes. “It starts with chefs.”