Dock to Dish: Los Angeles

Mission accomplished! Back in 2015, Dock to Dish launched the first Restaurant Supported Fishery in California. Sarah Rathbone, one of the co-founders of Dock to Dish, spearheaded the Los Angeles program after many years of working in the Community Supported Fisheries space. With this new model, Dock to Dish LA flipped the script for world renowned chefs like Michael Cimarusti and Niki Nakayama. Instead of chefs being able to demand what they want each week, and fishermen subsequently demanding that from the ocean – this new supply-driven model meant that local, small-scale fishermen provided only what was local, in season, and abundant.

“We looked directly past what was available to us in our local markets and our local fisheries,” award-winning chef and forefather of the sustainability movement in Los Angeles, Michael Cimarusti, tells L.A. Weekly. “For a long time the local catch was not considered good enough for a lot of the restaurants that are now serving it, which was just plain ignorant. We were ignoring what was available locally until Dock to Dish changed all that. Now we celebrate the ground fish species like black cod and rock cod on our menus every day at Providence.” (LA Weekly)

The work of Dock to Dish L.A. has changed the way that chefs think about sourcing seafood in California. At the core of the program is a deep-rooted respect for the hard work of fishermen and a commitment to celebrating their story.

“These great chefs, they can get whatever they want from anywhere in the world just by picking up the phone and placing an order,” Rathbone says. “That’s how industrialized seafood has always gone. Part of what we offer is an appreciation for the labor that went into catching and preparing the food. As far as our chefs are concerned, the more information the better. The story that comes with the fish is a really important part.” (LA Times)

These incredibly talented chefs are now choosing to forego the industrialized seafood system and get their seafood from fishermen close to home. In this way, they are disconnecting from a system that puts too much pressure on too few fish and instead connecting directly to the local ecosystem in an environmentally responsible way.

“I’m so often asked about issues of seafood sustainability, and I always feel that it’s incredibly important. But the side that is seldom discussed is about those who rely on the sea to make their living. We’re hoping to keep American fishermen on the water,” says Cimarusti. (NPR)

After many years of providing L.A.’s top restaurants and chefs with the freshest, most local, most traceable seafood – Dock to Dish L.A. has succeeded. Chefs are more connected now to their local fishermen than ever before and have a deep appreciation for what California’s waters have to offer. Due in large part to the tireless efforts of Sarah Rathbone, we can now say, mission accomplished!

Fish & Men Presents: Dock to Dish