Sea To Table Urges Consumers To Ask Where Their Fish Comes From



Sea To Table co-founder Sean Dimin presents a local fish to patrons at the event Slow U: Sustainable Sashimi held at the Institute of Culinary Education last month. Photo: Alex Contratto

Sea To Table, a Brooklyn-based fishing company, supports both a local-catch philosophy and sustainable harvesting for fish and seafood by making a connection between fishermen and chefs.  The Institute of Culinary Education on West 23rd Street hosted Slow U: Sustainable Sashimi last month, where Sea To Table and Slow Foods New York (SFNYC) showcased raw fish.  Sea to Table’s co-founder Sean Dimin moderated the event, while Katie O’Donnell, the Executive Sous Chef at Esca, located on West Forty-third Street between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, prepared a five-course tasting menu of raw fish, including scallops, golden tilefish, striped bass, bluefish, and yellowfin tuna.

Although Sea To Table and Slow Foods NYC are not strangers, Slow U:  Sustainable Sashimi marked their first official collaboration. Dimin, who is very familiar with SFNYC, praised their organization.  “They are the forerunner on redefining our foods system,” he said.  “We hope this develops into a long-term symbiotic relationship where we stay in line with each other, and we see it right now as speaking the same language.”

Edwin Yowell, the New York representative for Slow Food USA, was equally knowledgeable about Dimin’s work with sustainable fisheries at Sea To Table, and had contacted Dimin after Slow Foods’ board members suggested the idea of a sustainable sushi event.  “I posed the idea to Sean because he is a proponent of sustainable fisheries and products,” said Yowell,  “and he thought it was a great idea to have people eating raw fish.  It really makes a point because it demonstrates how sustainable local fisheries are.”

Dimin was hooked.  “I liked the idea and waited until the month of October, when there is really good fishing here in New York, and the event turned out to be a success,” said Dimin. Roughly 30 people attended the event, with tickets costing $35 for regular admission, and $25 discounted tickets for Slow Foods members.

Dimin believes that eating fish raw, in pristine form, is the best way to consume fish.  “Fish raw is very nourish-able, raw is healthier.  Is it weird to say it’s sexy?” said Dimin.  Serving fish raw allows chefs to let the fish shine, and pairing uncooked fish with regional vegetables and herbs allows for consumers to engage in conversation with their fishmongers, rather than purchasing a piece of fish at a market.  “This conversation is good for business,” said Dimin.

Buying local fish means finding a nearby source, and eating what’s available in season.  A “sustainable food system is trying to eat things in their season, and to eat food products produced regionally that do not have as many food miles associated with them.  The message on fish is ‘let’s eat fish that comes from nearby instead of farther away!’” said Yowell.

Sea To Table started this message when Dimin took a family vacation from Point Lookout, New York to the small fishing village of Charlottesville, Tobago, sixteen years ago.  “Their catch was fantastic. They would catch hundreds of pounds of tuna, wahoo, amberjack and I had no idea at the time, but they had no market for these fish,” said Sean Dimin. Seven years later, the Dimin family created Tobago Wild, and now Sea To Table represents a natural progression from better access to markets to developing avenues for sustainable harvesting.  Sea To Table has since grown nationwide.

David Goldsmith, a fish lover from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, attended the Slow U:  Sustainable Sashimi event to experience the local flavors and varieties of raw fish.  Goldsmith tries to eat fish multiple times a week, and understands Dimin’s fascination with Point Lookout near Montauk, where Goldsmith ate lots of tasty fish.  “We’ve been eating blowfish, squid, striped bass, and blackfish,” said Goldsmith.

But Goldsmith finds it difficult to locate good fish in Brooklyn supermarkets.  “We do much more at the Farmers’ Market.  Lately we have gone there and it’s been great,” he said.

Dimin stresses point-to-point access between producer and consumer, bypassing the hub and spoke of a central market that distributes to retailers.  “We like to take the idea of local and make it not a geographic radius but a relationship; know the person who is harvesting your fish.”

His goal for the future remains educating consumers about where their seafood originates, which can only make Sea To Table and SFNYC more relevant in the seafood industry.  “If people just learn the difference between doing things correctly and doing things poorly in terms of seafood, we will be in a very good position,” said Dimin.