Editor’s Note: This is part one in a series on the “Dock to Dish” program.
By VICTORIA CASSAR
For over a decade, the “farm to table” movement has grown rapidly in North America. More and more, consumers are becoming aware of the inhumane conditions of factory farms, as well as the unsustainable carbon footprint associated with getting a burger or chicken wing on their plate.
As ocean awareness rises, consumers are now seeking more answers about the source of their seafood, including the distance it has been transported and the method by which it was caught. In other words, people are demanding to know: How exactly did this fish get onto my plate or into this aisle at Publix? Unfortunately, the industrialized global seafood market, which supplies much of the demand in the United States, is made up of notoriously long and convoluted chains of custody that cannot provide answers.
As a coastal state with vibrant fishing communities, Florida residents and tourists theoretically should be able to access locally-harvested and well-regulated U.S. seafood with ease. However, for a variety of reasons, this access remains elusive and difficult to find for most consumers. In what celebrated seafood author Paul Greenberg describes as ‘The Great Fish Swap,’ our high-quality local seafood is often exported overseas while cheaper and lower-quality foreign imports flood the marketplace. To make matters worse, imported fish are also commonly mislabeled as being “locally caught” on menus, which further confuses and confounds consumers.
Inspired by the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model, which traditionally connects small-scale farmers with consumers of local produce, a membership with Dock to Dish connects seafood buyers directly to their local fishery in a supply-driven format. This new membership model, which Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection by Hilton, is excited to now be apart of, provides individuals, families, and restaurants with hyper local and sustainable options straight from the sea. The model quickly revolutionized transparency and traceability in the marketplace while guaranteeing fishermen financial stability and empowering the fishing community.
The resort, located at MM 97, bayside, saw the opportunity for a truly unique partnership by elevating the “dish” part of the mantra to a whole new level. After months of close collaboration with local Key Largo fishermen and the Baker’s Cay culinary team, the initiative officially launched recently. This new partnership officially makes Baker’s Cay Resort the first resort in the country to unveil a Dock to Dish Tour and customized local seafood initiative for resort guests.
“The Baker’s Cay team could not be prouder to stand with the passion of Sean Barrett and the entire team at Dock to Dish. Our aspiration is that this experience, a unique tribute to the fundamentals of conservation by lowering carbon emissions and strengthening community, brings exposure to the sustainability efforts in the Florida Keys and beyond,” said Joy Michelle Boyd, Baker’s Cay general manager.
In order for hotel guests to “know their fisherman,” as the Dock to Dish trademark encourages, while supporting the local Keys community, Baker’s Cay has coordinated with a network of reputable Key Largo fishing families and fishermen such as Capt. Casey Scott, an experienced fourth-generation captain and Keys native.
The experience is designed so that guests can navigate the surrounding ocean waters with the captains and have options to explore the deep water, backcountry or nighttime lobster netting in pursuit of the most local and sustainable catch of the day. In addition, Baker’s Cay Dock to Dish Tours are pioneering the introduction of a “Keeper Cap” to the Florida Keys, which will voluntarily limit, or cap, the amount of fish that are kept (aka “keepers”).
On Dock to Dish Tours, only the number of fish or lobster that are needed to supply the chefs and guests at dinner will be kept, while a catch-and-release adventure will be pursued for the remainder of the tour.
“The Baker’s Cay Keeper Cap is an important element to protecting stocks of local fish populations, and in addition to strict regulatory oversight by NOAA, this voluntary limitation cap being rolled out by Baker’s Cay advances a next-level philosophy and practice of sustainability that is new to the Florida Keys,” said Dock to Dish co-founder Sean Barrett.
Baker’s Cay Resort Dock to Dish Tours will also be advancing a “whole fish utilization” policy with resort chefs and kitchen staff. Barrett said “this concept encourages chefs to not only use the fillets of the fish but to also incorporate all of the other cuts (collar meat, cheeks, etc) into their dishes, as well as using the leftover bones and scraps to make soups and stocks and sauces in an effort to get as close to 100% utilization of the entire fish as possible.
Pairing this rugged outdoor fishing experience with the latest in fine dining, the catch is brought back to the resort and specially prepared by executive chef Andy Papson, who guides guests through the cooking method used and incorporates fresh herbs picked from the rooftop garden to match their specific tastes. The package pricing, which includes both the fishing charter and the beachfront dinner, starts at $750 for two people depending on the type of fishing excursion and number of guests.