What is in this article?:
- Chef discusses challenges, rewards of fresh seafood
- Identifying quality and exciting customers
Chef Danny Levesque disscusses how to indentify quality seafood and looks at what excites his customers most.
Danny Levesque has always liked cooking and fishing, so it’s not surprising that he ended up as theat Atlantic Fish Co., a polished, casual restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.
A native of Cambridge, Mass., Levesque embraced his French heritage at an early age by helping his mother cook dinner, which was the focal point of his family’s day.
When he was old enough to enter the workforce, he started cooking his way through restaurants in Boston and Cambridge. He landed at Back Bay Restaurant Group, cooking at restaurants such as Bouchée, Abe & Louie’s, and Coach Grill, before taking the top toque position at Atlantic Fish more than four years ago.
When Emeryville, Calif.-based Tavistock Restaurants bought Back Bay in 2011, they retained Levesque.
The chef, who says seafood has always been his focus, discussed with Nation’s Restaurant News challenges chefs face when working with the highly perishable product.
How did seafood become your culinary focus?
A lot of people order seafood in restaurants because they don’t like to cook it at home. But as I started to work in different restaurants when I was younger, I noticed that not too many people knew how to work with seafood. So every restaurant that I’ve gone to, I’ve made their seafood program better.
What was some low-hanging fruit when it came to improving restaurants’ seafood programs?
No. 1 was the purveyors they used. A number of vendors would send in re-freshed fish [frozen fish that is thawed before being sold, lowering its quality and shelf life].
Then most of it is just keeping things iced down, ordering just enough for the day, rotating your product properly, and knowing what product is better and why. A lot of restaurants don’t do that.
It’s hard to understand seafood quality because there’s no USDA grading it. You don’t know what’s prime and what’s choice. You have to know visually what you’re doing. The chef needs an education to be able to tell what the best quality swordfish is by touching, by tasting, by cutting it and seeing how much fat is on the knife.
The bloodline of the fish is a key indicator of quality as well. If you can take it out and smear it on paper and it’s still red, that’s a nice fresh fish. If it’s turning brown or already is brown, that fish has a few too many days on it.