Chef Rob Ruiz is dedicated to using sustainable seafood. So much so that his restaurant, The Land & Water Company (a fusion “French Izakaya” establishment) in Carlsbad, Calif., is known for its progressive sustainability. Ruiz serves sustainable seafood and produce from local, organic farms.
OA recently had the opportunity to interview Chef Rob Ruiz about his restaurant, how he got into serving sustainable seafood, and how he keeps his establishment as “green” as possible.
Organic Authority: What got you interested in learning about sustainable seafood? Was it working in the industry, or did you read/hear something that sparked your interest?
Chef Rob Ruiz: I spent '95-'05 on the big island in Hawaii, and was trained to be sustainable naturally. I was living in the most isolated island chain in the world, and had worked my way up to the Hualalai Resort, where I worked with James Beard award-winning chefs. We had our own aquaculture, garden, produce, ranches, surrounded by the best fishing in the world. I was born into sustainability as a chef.
OA: How has your restaurant made serving sustainable seafood a priority?
RR: A thousand percent; it's all that we do, and we are constantly refining the process with new techniques and new resources. Finding and bringing new sustainably-harvested species to market is number one. And we've done so with the Vaquita shrimp project.
OA: Can you tell us about the partnerships and systems you’ve made to enhance the traceability and transparency of seafood? We also want to hear about how you formulated the edible QR code.
RR: We work with the following: MSC, NOAA, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UCSD, Carlsbad Aquafarm, and Santa Monica Seafood where we developed the "Selected at a Sea" program. We also work with Santa Monica's RSVP Program and donate 10 cents per pound of all the fish we purchase back into sustainable science.
We spent three years with NOAA and Fishwatch.gov developing the QR codes that when scanned link consumers to the federal government's website providing all data on all species of wildlife and their sustainability. I made them edible by printing them on rice paper with edible ink. So, it touches consumers personally, it makes them think about what they are putting in their mouth.
OA: How have local fishermen responded to your endeavors to keep seafood sustainable?
RR: They love it. They get more attention, more respect, and better prices for their fish. Plus they gain respect for their trade.
OA: Can you tell us about your “recycled” restaurant? What was the most difficult thing to obtain that’s recycled?
RR: Getting our "Veganomics" program into place took constant vigilance. We recycle all organic waste into compost, the compost fuels our garden, which we water with all of the reclaimable water from our daily operations. And of course, planting, growing, and harvesting takes constant care. We recycle all paper, cardboard, plastics, glass, and metals. Plus turn our waste oil into biofuel.
OA: What are your future plans and how do you plan to become even more sustainable moving forward? Would you ever consider training other chefs about your sustainable methods?
RR: Absolutely. We will expand over the next 10 years, letting the food we make dictate our path. I want to grow other locations where food is grown and harvested, and sustainability is the priority.
This interview has been lightly edited.
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Image: The Land & Water Company