The New Year brings opportunities to start fresh, try something new, get rid of the outdated and create new experiences that will turn into memories. Your guests have a choice where they dine. And a lot of variables determine how they make their decisions – from proximity to atmosphere to the food served. More often than not, what’s on your menu counts heavily toward this choice. “Let’s go here for wings, “This place has the best fish fry,” “I’m craving surf’ n turf”. We’ve all uttered these words from time to time. Food has the power of persuasion. And as chefs, you have the tools to channel this power and transform an ingredient or protein into something masterful.

Let’s get creative in 2017. Consider chocolate or beef for breakfast. Try different ways to use emerging, trending ingredients such as turmeric and sardines, or use purple cauliflower or other veggies to replace rice and pasta.Consider coconut oil instead of olive, and add nuts and berries to sauces, chutneys and sides to enhance flavor and texture. Skip the added chemicals and processing – the more pure and natural the ingredients used, the better. The possibilities are endless. Opportunities, vast. Applause, bountiful.

Whether you revamp your whole menu for 2017 or simply introduce some new items, rainbow trout should remain a contender to round out your seafood choices. With its mild, clean flavor profile, rainbow trout is a perfect foundation for creating signature dishes. It pairs well with a variety of seasonings and sauces and is easy to prepare. And choosing rainbow trout from Clear Springs Foods is the only way to go. Clear Springs Foods has been at the forefront of environmental stewardship and continues to bea leader in sustainable production and practices. Our rainbow trout is sustainably farmed-raised in crystal clear, 58°F spring water in southern Idaho. We’re dedicated to ensuring you feel good about menuing our rainbow trout to your patrons.

From small plates and appetizers to sought-after entrees, Rainbow Trout delivers total menu flexibility. Our natural and butterfly fillets are 100% boneless for ultimate convenience, and our pre-crusted boneless varieties are available in on-trend flavors such as Harissa, Mustard Pretzel and Super Grains.

Rainbow Trout is versatile and perfect any time of year – from grilling fillets in warmer months to baking and sautéing when the weather turns cooler. Rounding out seafood options on your menu with Rainbow Trout is essential. Clear Springs Foods offers a variety of options perfect for seasonal menu rotation, LTOs or as a menu staple. With its mild, clean flavor profile, Rainbow Trout is a perfect foundation for creating signature dishes. It pairs well with a variety of seasonings and sauces and is easy to prepare. The possibilities are endless – limited only by your creativity.

From small plates and appetizers to sought-after entrees, Rainbow Trout delivers total versatility. Clear Springs Foods natural and butterfly fillets are 100% boneless for ultimate convenience, and our pre-crusted boneless varieties are available in on-trend flavors such as Harissa, Mustard Pretzel and Super Grains. Look to Clear Springs Foods for simply delicious seafood.

Clear Springs Foods Rainbow Trout is sustainability raised in crystal clear, 58°F spring water in southern Idaho. We’ve been at the forefront of environmental stewardship and continue to bea leader in sustainable production and practices. Learn more about Rainbow Trout, the sustainable superfood, at, where you can find delicious recipes ideas and link to our social channels. 


Clear Springs Foods makes its home in the scenic Snake River Canyon of Southern Idaho's Magic Valley and continues to maintain its place at the forefront of environmental stewardship and as a leader in sustainable Rainbow Trout production and practices. Our Rainbow Trout are farm-raised in concrete raceways with continuous water flow-through fed by an abundance of consistently 58° crystal-clear spring water from the Snake River Canyon’s underground aquifer. These ideal growing conditions, combined with an uncompromised commitment to quality and innovation, allow Clear Springs to provide premium rainbow trout options you can be proud to plate and offer your guests, year-round.

Ranked as a “Best Choice” on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® list, Rainbow Trout offers healthy natural benefits such as being a source of lean protein and an excellence source of Vitamin D, along with heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Our superior water source and premium fish meal produce the perfect balance of mild, clean flavor and firm, flaky texture. And, Clear Springs® Rainbow Trout Fillets provide that perfect, sustainable foundation for creating an endless array of menu ideas. They’re 100% boneless for ultimate convenience and available in natural fillet and butterfly style for application flexibility. Rainbow Trout accents the flavors of marinades, sauces and seasonings – making it a Farm-Raised to Fork Fabulous protein.

Rainbow Trout is soversatile – perfect for everything from small plates and appetizers to soups, salads and entrees. Try Trout Skewers with Honey-Lime Sriracha Sauce & Asian Slaw, Rainbow Trout Tacos with Avocado Salsa and Pickled Red onions or Spicy Wasabi and Panko Crusted Rainbow Trout. For a light and airy menu idea, sauté Rainbow Trout and serve aside a bed of Kale and Dried Cranberry Salad.

Whether you’re creating a signature appetizer of prosciutto-wrapped rainbow trout, smoked trout tapas or butterfly grilled trout in a bourbon sauce, the possibilities are endless. We dare you to channel your creative outlet, test your boundaries, impress yourself even. We’re here if you needs us – from menu allowances to learning about our sustainable practices to recipes and more.

Simply visit for all your Farm-Raised to Fork Fabulous needs.

As chefs, we’re constantly searching for new menu ideas that offer a refreshing twist on an emerging trend, or perhaps, to start new trends. We love flavor and textures and experimenting with both,with the motivation to craft our own signature recipes worthy of an LTO or even a menu staple. Clear Springs®Boneless Rainbow Trout provides the exceptional foundation for all your menu creations.
This year, let’s craft our menus to stand out, to be a reason why patrons wait for a table, come back again and bring their friends. From small plates and appetizers to sought-after entrees, rainbow trout delivers total versatility. Its mild flavor and tender texture pairs exceptionally well with marinades, sauces and seasonings. And, our natural and butterfly fillets are 100% boneless for ultimate convenience and perfect for grilling, pan sautéing or oven prep. So get imaginative, as you’re only limited by your creativity.
You can feel good about serving rainbow trout to your patrons, too. Clear Springs rainbow trout is sustainability raised in crystal clear, 58°F spring water in southern Idaho. We’ve been at the forefront of environmental stewardship and continue to bea leader in sustainable production and practices. Learn more about the sustainable superfood, rainbow trout, and find delicious recipes ideas at

Clear Springs Foods makes its home in the scenic Snake River Canyon of Southern Idaho's Magic Valley and continues to maintain its place at the forefront of environmental stewardship and as a leader in sustainable Rainbow Trout production and practices. Our Rainbow Trout are farm-raised in concrete raceways with continuous water flow-through fed by an abundance of consistently 58° crystal clear spring water from the Snake River Canyon’s underground aquifer.Ideal growing conditions, combined with a commitment to quality and innovation, have made Clear Springs Foods the world's largest producer of Rainbow Trout, processing over 25 million pounds a year. From egg to market, Clear Springs maintains control over every phase of production. Our fish meal and fish oil ingredients are only sourced from sustainable suppliers. And with 100% utilization, all trout byproducts are converted into Clear Organic™ liquid fish fertilizer for organic farmers. It’s this uncompromised dedication to quality and total vertical integration that assures you the finest products available, with outstanding consistency in order to deliver quality products year-round to our customers.


Not only do we pride ourselves on our sustainable practices, we’re also excited to provide you with a versatile protein you can feel good about promoting on your menu. Ranked as a “Best Choice” on Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch® list, Rainbow Trout offers healthy natural benefits such as being a good source of lean protein and containing DHA and EPA Omega 3 fatty acids. Our superior water source and premium fish meal produce the perfect balance of mild, clean flavor and firm, flaky texture. And, Clear Springs® Rainbow Trout Fillets provide that perfect, sustainable foundation for creating an endless array of menu ideas. They’re 100% boneless for ultimate convenience and available in natural fillet and butterfly style for application flexibility. Rainbow Trout accents the flavors of marinades, sauces and seasonings – making it an extremely versatile, healthy protein you can be proud to serve. 

Visit to learn more about our sustainable practices and to find delicious recipes. 
A three percent drop in independent restaurant unit counts compared to year ago brought the total U.S. restaurant count down by one percent to 630,511 units, according to a census of U.S. commercial restaurant locations compiled in the spring and fall of each year by The NPD Group, a leading global information company. 

The drop in independent restaurants was concentrated in the full service segment, which includes casual dining, midscale/family dining, and fine dining.  Although full service independent units were down 3 percent, quick service independent units did remain stable. “It’s a tough road for independent restaurants particularly in a down or even soft economic climate,” says Greg Starzynski, director of product management at NPD Foodservice.  “Independent operators do not have the resources of a chain to sustain themselves in slower times.” 

The overall decline in restaurant units is a reflection of the stalled traffic growth experienced by the foodservice industry over the past several years.  Independent traffic, quick service hamburger, and full service restaurant visit declines, particularly at midscale dining establishments, are contributing to industry traffic not growing. Visits to total restaurants were flat in the year ending in May 2015 compared to same period prior year, according to NPD’s ongoing foodservice market researchCREST.

Over a five year period, traffic has declined by 3 percent at midscale and family dining restaurants, and by 2 percent at independent restaurants.  Quick service restaurants, which represent 79 percent of total industry traffic, were up 1 percent and casual dining restaurants were flat after several years of decline in the year ending May 2015 period compared to year ago. 

The total restaurant count decrease was offset by a one percent increase in chain restaurant units. Fast casual chain units increased by 7 percent, based on NPD’s Spring 2015 ReCount, which includes restaurants open as of March 31, 2015.

Across the Board

With the help of research and marketing boards, chefs are utilizing popular  (and not-so-common) protein items in new ways—particularly with charcuterie.

 The Sea-cuterie board at Chicago-based Travelle.
Protein is essential to help our bodies maintain adequate health and prevent muscle loss—a common phobia that has catapulted supplemental powder and meal bar production. While these work for a quick fix, complete meals allow us to obtain other vitamins and nutrients as well. What’s more, animal proteins provide what can’t necessarily be found in fruits, vegetables and grains alone. With a broadening realization of the health benefits, our bodies are literally ravenous for this essential nutrient. But in this quest for dietary fulfillment, our taste buds need to feel exhilarated. 
Thanks to reliable charcutiers who provide different cuts of preserved products, charcuterie is one way culinary experts can spice up a menu. And they’ve expanded well beyond the standard pork options, now featuring a curated selection of cured meats, breads and tangy jams or condiments. Employing all cuts of meats, chefs are able to whip up pâtés and crépinettes, sopressatas and chorizos, and whole-muscle cuts in order to create low-maintenance, shareable charcuterie boards that continue to be a great starter and make a great platform for chefs to creatively show off their skill set. 
But what would these skill sets be without their spotlighted ingredients? We have collaborations and marketing boards to thank for educating kitchens across the country on their respective proteins. Boards like the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI), the National Pork Board (NPB) and so many others exist to promote each respective protein to foodservice operators and distributors; to maintain the ecosystems that create their livelihoods; and to keep consumers knowledgeable of both their practices and the benefits, creating a renewed interest in the role protein plays in our everyday lives.


Chef Craig Deihl prepares charcuterie plates at his
Charleston, S.C.-based Cypress restaurant.
Pork is a powerful partner on a plate, and chefs are leveraging its versatility in new ways. The National Pork Board (NPB) aims to elevate pork consumption on a global scale. According to the Pork Checkoff, the growth rate of pork outpaces other proteins, and the NPB has implemented a five-year plan to keep momentum going. Its goals are threefold: to enhance consumer trust in pork production; to drive sustainable production; and to grow consumer demand.
Director of Foodservice Marketing and Innovation, Stephen Gerike, focuses on objective three: to grow consumer demand. Specifically, he works to provide culinary education. “We’re constantly trying to provide innovative ideas for how to use pork based on what’s happening in the business today,” he says. “The idea is to educate as many people as we can so they’re confident using pork.” 
Perhaps among the most confident in using pork is Executive Chef Craig Deihl of Charleston, S.C.-based Cypress. Recognized for his charcuterie program, Chef Deihl likes to have fun with craft butchery by breaking down hams that are offered on the menu. “Working with pig is my favorite,” he says. “Particularly the Guinea Hog.” Now, the Guinea Hog isn’t your everyday pig. With a high fat-to-meat ratio and a size too small to suffice a 310-seat restaurant, this pig wouldn’t be considered a culinary front-runner for standard dishes. Luckily for Cypress, it’s perfectly suited for charcuterie boards. Cypress’ quest for excellence while using superior products like the Guinea Hog has helped pave the James Beard-nominated way for the Lowcountry restaurant. Steadfast in his belief of presenting only the best meat to his patrons, Chef Deihl stands behind The Butcher’s Guild as one of its audacious members who guides other professionals in butchery and the utilization of meat-based products. 
Also a big fan of featuring pork on his Michelin-rated menu, Chef Andrew Zimmerman of Chicago’s Sepia once showcased his swine cooking abilities by including red cooked pig’s ears on one of his charcuterie boards. “Charcuterie was born from cooks being thrifty with their trim and less-prized cuts of meat,” says Chef Zimmerman. In most areas of the world, pig ears would fall right into that category. Sourcing high-quality ingredients is an essential element of Sepia’s success. “You can’t make great food with mediocre ingredients,” he says. With a last name like Bacon, it’s possible that Chef Jeremiah Bacon’s career was written in the stars. The Charleston native has two thriving hometown restaurants—The Macintosh and Oak Steakhouse. His position at both has earned him multiple James Beard nominations over the years. While The Macintosh features a seasonal surf-and-turf charcuterie plate, Oak Steakhouse focuses more on the turf to accent the menu. “We’re certified Angus Beef Prime [at Oak], so we get some of the most beautiful and prized meat,” Chef Bacon says. The Butcher’s Plate at Oak, while exquisitely prepared, is driven largely by its inventory. “We butcher a lot of beef, so it’s dictated a little more by trim,” he adds. 
Just as each aforementioned protein has its own marketing board, so too does beef like that served at Oak Steakhouse. An operating committee implements promotion and marketing research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA)—the latest of which involves looking into consumption patterns of Millennials. “The Millennial generation is 80 million strong in this country,” says Dave Zino, executive chef for NCBA. He works with chefs and processors to provide education on what will appeal to both Millennials and the market as a whole.


New York-based Oceana utilizes information from the ASMI
 and MLMC to advocate fresh fish and lobster served on the menu.
Shoreline inhabitants are inherently healthier than their hinterland brethren. Studies have repeatedly established the correlation between heart health and Omega 3s. On the other end of the carnivore spectrum, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) does for the sea what the NPB does for the swine and the NCBA for cattle. The oceans predate life on earth, so ASMI diligently protects what they consider to be the state’s greatest asset. It allocates a seven-member board that’s made up of processors and fishermen with the task of ensuring that the needs of the harvest are balanced with the needs of the ecosystem. The board—and all fishers—help regulate this by ceasing the season once an established quota has been met. According to their research, about half of all seafood production in the United States comes from Alaska’s 34,000 mile coastline. It is home to the most abundant seafood stocks in the world, so the seafood industry is a vital component of the state’s economy. Alaska takes its seafood so seriously in fact, that they remain the only state with a constitutional mandate regulating the utilization and development on a sustained yield principle. “We are one of the world leaders for sustainable fisheries management,” says Claudia Hogue, foodservice director for ASMI. “They actually wrote into the state constitution that all fisheries must be managed sustainably.” 
Another group with a long history of sustainability and traceability is deeply rooted in an overarching family of lobstermen. Maine’s self-regulated industry has been practicing responsible fishing for more than 100 years. Small-boat fishers don’t have a mandated season for lobster; they typically live by the this-ishow-we’ve-always-done-it season. The Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative (MLMC) was the answer to the surplus of lobsters available due to one year’s unexpected early arrival. “There wasn’t enough capacity to handle it,” says Matt Jacobson, executive director of MLMC. “There was no marketing effort, and it’s such an important commodity for Maine.” This unprecedented opportunity has allowed the last of the hunter/gatherers to tell their sea-to-table story. 
Lobster has grown to be a compelling restaurant trend in recent years. Chefs are reimagining the crustacean; creating innovative dishes that play on both lobster as well as other sea life’s versatility. Chef Ben Pollinger is a Maine Lobster chef advocate; he chooses to serve high-protein lobster from Maine at his restaurant, Oceana, in
New York City. Likewise, Chef Pollinger takes advantage of ASMI’s resources. He serves fish found in the pristine waters of Alaska like Wild Alaskan Salmon because he believes sustainable, wild fish is always the best choice when it’s available. “It all starts with the product,” he says. 
PB Catch’s Seacuterie board
The seafood take on charcuterie is growing in popularity in areas that are both conducive to obtaining fresh fish daily as well as unexpected locations, like Chicago-based Travelle. With an affinity for creating small plates, Chef Tim Graham began to realize his original charcuterie idea didn’t fit on the menu as a traditional meat-centric dish. As his idea began to crystallize, his team prepared charcuterie analogs out of products from the ocean, morphing the dish into a seacuterie board. Featuring a Tuna Bresoala—a take on the air cured beef from Italy—the fish is dry rubbed twice and hang-dried, then sliced thin and served as a traditional Bresola would be. Preparing traditional meat-heavy dishes with a seafood substitute is often accomplished with a trial-and-error method. “Sometimes it feels like we have no reference for what we want to accomplish,” says Chef Graham. “That is when we just push on, take good notes, and adjust as necessary.”  It’s not difficult to find a fresh cut of tuna in South Florida, so the group at PB Catch in Palm Springs  has some fun in the kitchen with its food trials. “We started experimenting with the curing and smoking process of different fish,” says Executive Chef Aaron Black. The final product: a seacuterie selection that provides the best combinations of texture and taste when cured and prepared in a way that might be found on a traditional charcuterie plate; salmon pastrami, smoked trout and scallops, and octopus torchon—a marine version of a foie gras preparation method where the meat is wrapped, poached and chilled. From concept to execution, PB Catch puts a lot of thought into its menu because it’s the signature culinary technique that they are trying to convey. With these sea friendly takes on menu items, chefs are able to call to mind their own influences and upbringings with inspiration from around the globe. 
High-protein food choices play a major role in our health—and obtaining it from animal sources offers more flavor varieties. These chefs exist to provide restaurant goers with new delectable offerings, and these marketing boards exist to aide chefs in their new understanding of what each has to offer. Chefs are armed with pork, beef and seafood as their artists’ tools, and these [charcuterie] boards act as their blank canvas.
In a world  saturated with upscale menus, 
we take the road less traveled across America to find the essence of a no-frills meal.

The open road is one of opportunity and romance, travel and leisure, and for us, a chance to explore the off-the-beaten-path stops that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. Oftentimes it’s the road less traveled and restaurant less publicized that can bring to the plate a meal, an experience and an atmosphere worth seeing again. Beginning on the coast of Seattle and ending in downeast Maine where rockbound shorelines are abound, this cross-country road trip is rooted in routes through Main Street. Here, the melody isn’t modernizing, and the food, the product, and the experience is founded on tradition. These restaurants offer a how-to on pleasing the traveler who’s beaten lengthy highway stretches and GPS malfunctions to find their dining destination is just up ahead.  


In the Pacific Northwest, oysters are more than a bivalve of the hour, they are THE bivalve. Here, they are plucked directly from the sheltered inlets and islands of one of the greatest oyster regions in the country. And with that, the oyster bar prevails. Dispersed across the Pacific Northwest, the saturation  of half-shell-focused eateries also calls for authenticity. So where better to start than back in time? With five generations of history behind it, we head to the tidelands and shallow waters of Taylor Shellfish Farms.  

“It’s really special to deliver the food of your region, and that’s shellfish to the Pacific Northwest,” says Marcelle Taylor, whose great-great-grandfather began farming Olympia oysters in the crisp Puget Sound waters in 1890. An inlet of the Pacific, there’s something seriously simplistic about the complex product that grows throughout the network of marinas and waterways in the Puget Sound. Here, every tideland creates its own composite.

At Taylor Shellfish, they’re farming more than just the northwest-of-Seattle Puget Sound area and have perfected the growing method to match each locale. At Totten Inlet, a southern point of the Sound, beloved and delicate Olympia, Pacific and Virginica oysters are grown. Chapman’s Cove produces its Kumamotos, whose sculptured, fluted shell holds an oyster of nutty, sweet and clean flavors. At its farm in Willapa Bay, also south of Puget Sound, the wave and wind help to form the company’s briny Shigoku oysters, a proprietary oyster to the company.  It’s a Pacific oyster that’s tide-tumbled so the bags flip with the flow of the tide. “It knocks off the frill and makes the meat nice and strong to give the oyster that crunch that you don’t typically get in a regular Pacific,” says Taylor.

In an effort to build a direct, sustainable relationship between the Seattle consumer and the Taylor Shellfish Farm family, the company created three neighborhood oyster bars, each tailored to its own community. Taylor Oyster Bar in Capitol Hill, the company’s first, is a reminder of the humble beginnings of fresh seafood in its rawest prime. The menu here reads raw oysters only and a few cooked, chilled and cracked market specialties like Dungeness crab and cocktail prawns. Geoduck sashimi and a smoked salmon plate are also  on the list, accompanied by local wines, IPAs and pale ales, among others.  

“We originally thought that people would come to Capitol Hill to buy shellfish retail to cook at home,” Taylor says. “But they were coming in and asking us to do the shucking. It quickly became less of a shellfish market and more of a true oyster bar.” Eating the Taylor family’s product is as transparent a process as ever, and following the oyster back to its pristine waters is simplicity at best at the company’s oyster bars, which recently expanded to include locations in Queen Anne and Pioneer Square.

Still selling about 95 percent of its product wholesale, they’ve gone beyond building a sound retail program for local Seattle consumers—this is truly developing the heart of their business. Product is delivered six days per week to more than 150 restaurants and chefs in the area. The national program is also one of recognition. The company is one of the largest shellfish producers in the United States, and with an infrastructure to send clams, mussels and oysters year round direct to distributor or chef, it’s a specialty worth looking into.

 “And it’s as fresh as it can get because we own the entire process of the supply chain,” says Taylor. “We can manage every section, and we know exactly where it came from, when, and when it’s going to hit someone’s table. We like to say its tide to table and as direct as possible.”


Crumbly and dense. Flaky and light. Buttermilk or milk? The local loaf is a hotly debated topic, but in North Carolina, one biscuit kitchen has tipped the scale. Just up the road from the University of North Carolina situates a drive-through-only restaurant that’s been crafting its tall, golden brown biscuits since 1977. “Calling us no frills is being very generous,” says David Allen, owner of Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. The 460-square-foot Chapel Hill location serves up southern comfort to lines of cars and patiently waiting customers seven days a week.

Adapting his grandmother’s biscuit recipe from “a pinch of this, a sprinkle of that” into a meal fit for service, Allen’s technique and handling of the dough hasn’t changed.

“As a southern farm family, there were many to feed,” he says. His grandmother, who lived to be 100 years old, had 17 children—Allen’s mother was the youngest. “Biscuits were served at every meal—they’re hot; they’re fresh, and they fill you up.”

It’s just the essentials here. A snaking line of cars and a steady handout of product. But for a restaurant so steeped in tradition, Allen has recognized the need to adapt. Over the years, loyal customers discovered that if they came in the kitchen door, Sunrise would let them order. When word got out, he added a second register to handle the walk in customers. It’s a small addition, but convenience for customers is key after nearly 40 years of business.
“I was hesitant to do this—the drive-through was our focus,” says Allen. “But it’s improved our service to everyone.” The location still only holds up to 3 people in at one time.

Chicken breast, sausage, bacon, country ham, pork chop tenderloin, western steak and more are all available to be sandwiched between the golden buttermilk goodness. The Chicken and Cheddar Biscuit is the top seller in Chapel Hill; The Country Ham Biscuit reigning   number one at the Louisburg location just 50 miles northeast.

These fluffy, flaky numbers are more than just a vehicle for sausage and gravy, fried chicken or sausage, they’re a way to the  heart of customer’s mealtime memories. Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor—all of these review sites are surging with positive responses, five stars and suggestions that the mom n’ pop spot must be seen and tasted to be fully understood.

“Many people tell me that they have been coming to Sunrise since childhood,” he says. “We certainly take great pride in what we do. At all of our locations, we have very dedicated people working with us, and I think that it helps that they get such positive feedback from our loyal customers.”


Featuring a dramatic shoreline caressed by waves, reaches from the Maine land mass stretch like fingers into the Atlantic; its peninsulas jut in and out of the sea with more than 5,000 miles of coastline and islands to boot. In Downeast Maine, where rockbound coastlines prevail, we head inland to Bagaduce Lunch.  It sits quite literally on the edge of Brooksville and atop its namesake river.  You might find that off-the-beaten-path description of the 69-year-old roadside fish shack to be an understatement, but that certainly does not mean it’s the path less traveled. Since its opening in 1946 when Sydney Snow built a small take-out window for locals and passerbys, Bagaduce has continued to be a family affair—Judy Astbury, Snow’s granddaughter, is in her 19th year.

Simplicity reigns here at Bagaduce with Haddock Sandwiches king. Fried haddock fillets veil the sandwich buns they’re served on, and on a busy day, that number can reach 65-70. Couple that with the crab meat and lobster rolls ordered on speed dial and plump fried clams fit for Paul Bunyan himself, this Mother’s Day-through-mid-September spot is doing something right.
Astbury and her husband have seen children grow up and loyal locals and visitors come back since they took over for Judy’s parents in 1997. It’s as much about family lineage here as it is about the cohorts of customers who have traveled on ME Route 175/176 here for generations.

Sure, its no-frills atmosphere has been subject of talk and taste for those in the surrounding New England area, but Bagaduce Lunch has garnered hype and celebration of its food and service from around the country. In 2008, it was named one of the James Beard Foundation’s “America’s Classics.”

And classic is stays. There’s no indoor seating here; just a white-paneled building with red walk-up windows that customers belly up to to place an order. They’ve grown in size, expanding and rebuilding as needed. Walk around the building, and 20 picnic tables are scattered amongst a scenic backdrop of the narrow Bagaduce River—a waterside view alone worth the penny paid. But at the end of the day, it’s the family’s ability to season after season put out good food and work a crowd that brings the people back.  

The global fishing industry is one muddied in coastal waters. Is transparency anywhere in sight? 

The traceability of seafood from international waters to an American plate can be a web of confusion for many, and black market fishing—or what we should correctly refer to as illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing—muddies the waters. According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal scientific agency and one of the most respected seafood sustainability organizations in the world, nearly 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported; much of that from China, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Ecuador.

A greater understanding of where our seafood comes from is top-of-mind lately. There’s two demands here from consumers and chefs: a demand for sustainability—ideally that fish and shellfish are farmed or fished in such a way that each can maintain or increase production in the long term. And second, a demand for a more transparent look into the water—where is it coming from?

With that in mind, and because the entities engaging in IUU fishing circumvent conservation and management measures, avoid the operational costs associated with sustainable fishing practices, and possibly derive economic benefit from American fisheries, the Department of State and NOAA  announced an action plan for the implementation of recommendations to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.

The recommendations were announced at the Seafood Expo North America earlier this year by a 19-agency presidential task force that was established by President Obama to create a comprehensive framework to protect the economic and environmental sustainability of U.S. and global fisheries. The task force, which created the action plan, includes a diverse group of members—Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Agency for International Development, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Defense and 15 others.

“Because more than 2.5 billion people depend upon fish for food and nutrition, IUU fishing practices threaten food security and sustainability and undermine efforts to reduce global hunger and malnutrition,” the report stated.

The action plan spells out each forceful step, 15 in total, that federal agencies will take in both domestic and international settings as the Obama administration works to support sustainable fisheries and keep the American fishing industry strong.

“It hurts businesses that do the right thing; it hurts consumers; and it hurts the resource,” says Sean O’Scannlain, founder and CEO of Fortune Fish, a gourmet seafood distributor. “But the most important part of understanding the issue is having the proper perspective in order to use resources wisely in combating it.” There’s already efforts in place that seek to address transparency challenges including port state measures, which help ensure illegally harvested wild-caught seafood does not enter international trade; as well as the FDA’s Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, which enforces capabilities against misbranded food.

For the task force, the 15-step action plan simply hopes to reinforce a commitment to a transparent seafood system. An increase in required information available on products is one of the four general themes of its plan.

Port state measures, free trade agreements, fishery subsidies, and best practices for data tracking are among the 15 recommendations, broad in scope, provided to the administration by the task force.  Others include expanded federal, state and local enforcement provisions and information sharing and traceability programs.

The traceability system attempts to give chefs and consumers purchasing seafood in the American market an increasing confidence in its sustainability. In the meantime, O’Scannlain suggests that Chefs looking for a more transparent route for their fish first look at what traceability program is in place with their supplier. Extra documentation might not be needed.

“Most often that tracking will be significant,” he says. “Chefs should have a conversation with their supplier before they unilaterally embrace the need for more documentation. Sometimes a conversation rather than an ultimatum can be eye opening.”

Most suppliers already have systems in place, which is why O’Scannlain believes creating new laws or initiatives for the sake of new laws or initiatives is not successfully addressing the issue. The task force’s recommendations are ambitious, certainly. But they do address the need to trace at-risk products. The plan eventually aims to trail every piece of seafood that enters U.S. commerce from where it is caught to where it lands in the United States. According to the report, implementation by September 2016 should trace all at-risk seafood (or products of particular concern) through data tracking.

American interest in the international seafood supply chain is certainly strengthening, especially after a yearlong investigation by the Associated Press surfaced a few months back.  The investigation brought to light modern day slave labor conditions in Indonesian fisheries. It’s a clouded seafood supply chain, and according to the AP, tainted seafood mixes in with other fish at a number of sites in Thailand, including processing plants. The thought is jarring, and although extreme, it proves the need for higher regulation and transparency in the fishing supply chain. It also requires chefs ask more questions.

At Fortune Fish, yes they seek to work with the most responsible international trading partners available, but they also know which questions to ask. “We vet our suppliers and have a stringent quality assurance and control program, but we are also members of the Better Seafood Board (BSB),” says O’Scannlain. “It’s the leading B-to-B anti-fraud group. If we have questions, we take those to the BSB. If a supplier isn’t a member of the BSB, the first question we ask is why not?”

And that’s the first question O’Scannlain suggests you offer to potential distributors and suppliers as well.

Questions can tackle transparency, but sustainability takes hard work on every end. The implementation of the Task Force’s concepts will begin with the integration of programs and data across the sustainability landscape. They’ll include increased federal agency collaboration and the development and phased implementation of a traceability program for species that might not be sustainably farmed.

“NOAA is one of the premier seafood sustainability organizations on the planet,” says O’Scannlain. “They manage stocks to their maximum sustainable yield. If an NOAA regulated product is on the market, it is sustainable.” If it were not, NOAA wouldn’t allow it to be harvested. They’ll also certify that it not only came from an approved establishment, i.e. no IUU fishing involved, but it’s also meeting the U.S. grade A standard.

He believes that sustainability, very simply, has to do with oversight. “Is someone watching the stock? Is someone managing the fleet? Are there responsible measures in place to make sure aquaculture is done right?” he asks.

Unlike many specialty, packaged products on the market, there’s no one specific seal or certification that makes it sustainable. “So is seafood sustainability realistic? Yes, absolutely,” he says. “But it’s not a state of panacea that we’re trying to get to, it’s the state of hard work we are in now and will always be in that will make and keep seafood sustainable.”