Devoted to Sustainable Seafood
Jamie Malone prepares incredible seafood at Minneapolis’ acclaimed Sea Change, located on the Mississippi River in the contemporary Guthrie Theater complex. Her artfully curated menu showcases a variety of well-researched sustainable species, so delicious that Food & Wine recognized her on this year’s list of Best New Chefs. We chat with Jamie about the challenges of serving fresh seafood in landlocked Minnesota, her favorite fish and how she manages a pre-show rush.
AndrewZimmern.com: What are the biggest challenges of running a seafood restaurant in the Midwest?
Jamie Malone: Sourcing is not as difficult as you may think. We do a lot of business here, and most of what we sell is fish, which means I bring in anywhere between 100 to 200 pounds of fish per day. That makes it easy to source just about anything I want, and to get it in just as fresh as if we were on a coast. My biggest challenge is that I don’t get to talk directly with fisherman and the people who work the most directly with the product. There is so much to learn from them, and it’s just compelling to get to work directly with the people that are pulling your product out of the earth, or water in this case.
AZ.com: What’s on your top-five list for sustainable fish?
JM: Oysters. Spanish Mackeral. Farmed Arctic Char. Sardines. Rainbow Trout.
AZ.com: You were just named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs. What’s the best part of getting this kind of recognition? Any downsides?
JM: The best part is the opportunities that it’s given me. I have had the chance to meet and work with people who are the best at what they do. That is exciting and inspiring! The hard part is learning how to adapt as I am being pulled in many directions. I do know that I need to be in my kitchen as much as I possibly can.
AZ.com: What are a few lessons you’ve learned from executive chef Tim McKee?
JM: Tim’s food is incredibly refined, and he makes it seem effortless.
AZ.com: What are the challenges of working in a restaurant attached to a theater? Is it difficult dealing with a big pre-show rush?
JM: It is a challenge. It can be incredibly stressful when the ticket machine doesn’t stop for an hour and 150 people in the dining room are all going to the same show. My Sous Chef, Ryan Cook and I have spent two years refining a system to expedite the line as efficiently as possible. We never want cooks to scramble or be rushed, that is the real challenge. We need to keep the environment calm and organized, even when it gets crazy. Cooks need to be calm and focused in order make good food.
AZ.com: When cooking seafood, it often seems like it’s best to let the ingredients shine. Any tips for practicing restraint?
JM: It’s important to be very pragmatic. Everything needs a purpose on the plate. It is very important to understand WHY you enjoy the food you enjoy, what about it gives you pleasure. Each item you decide to put on the plate, needs to be the best expression of what that is.
AZ.com: Favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities?
JM: La Belle Vie.
AZ.com: What’s in your fridge?
JM: Oysters. Six-month aged ribeye. Beef fat. Koji Shio. Champagne. Some chanterelles from the bog. Dog Treats. You picked a good day to ask that question!
Get Jamie’s recipe for Oysters with XO Gravy.
Before receiving her culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu, Chef Malone traveled extensively in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Europe, studying food and immersing herself in the nuances of each region’s cuisine. She developed her passion for cooking in high school as an avid listener of NPR’s The Splendid Table, which continues to inspire her to this day. She also admires and aspires to emulate renowned Chef Thomas Keller for his organization and commitment to the craft of cooking.
“Sea Change gives patrons well-researched options for sustainable fish that are not on everybody else’s top five list,” Chef Malone said. “We constantly are working hard to stay on top of the ever changing world of sustainability.”
Chef Malone says she tends to take a very gestalt approach to cooking. She isn’t just thinking about what’s going onto the plate, but who will be eating it, and how their entire dining experience will make them feel.
“I like working with my hands every day,” enthused Chef Malone. “My short-term goals and my long-term ambitions are really the same: every day when I finish my work, I want to leave behind a dining room that still resonates with happy people.”
Jamie Malone was a 2013 semi-finalist for James Beard Foundation Awards Rising Star Award. She was also named a Food and Wine Best New Chef for 2013.