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“Taste has a very lasting effect on people,” says Bart Seaver, executive chef and part owner of Georgetown’s chic new aptly named fish restaurant, Hook.
He hopes that through great taste and presentation he can sharpen Washington’s awareness of sustainable fish (one that replenishes itself and is not threatened by overfishing) as a way to feed the world.
“Words and ideology can only go so far,’’ says Sever, 28, whose clientele since opening in April includes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ABC commentator George Stephanopoulos, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt and the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna. “As a chef, I can only reach you through so many things.”
Hook uses stainless steel wall fans and whitewashed feathered plaster to evoke a Mediterranean atmosphere. Dazzling underwater photos from the Philippe Cousteau Foundation’s EarthEcho International conjure up a Jules Verne world in azure blue.
A hometown boy, Seaver developed a loyal following running two D.C. restaurants, Café Saint-Ex and Bar Pilar. His philosophy is that if great recipes make fish like cod and salmon so popular they end up overfished or overfarmed, why not create great dishes for notorious survivors such as barracuda, weakfish and wahoo instead of swordfish?
Seaver has lots of ways to make his case. He is working on a cookbook as well as a Web page to connect chefs with sustainable suppliers. Close to home, his list of produce suppliers includes some 40 small farm and co-op producers. Among his favorite fish are Eastern wild striped bass and blackfin tuna from Tobago. His signature crowd-pleasers include grilled calamari, currant-sweetened spinach and delicate sunchoke chips.
There’s no question Seaver is dedicated to his mission. He trains his staff to present the daily specials with a dash of sustainable fish information. In May, when Representative Mike Thompson (D., Calif.) was fighting to save wild salmon stocks, Seaver’s name was on the list of conference call participants.
But for much of the clientele, Seaver is the main attraction on the menu. Handsome and eligible, he often works the room like a politician, stopping to talk with guests about his cuisine and his philosophy. “A restaurant is like a story. It’s a whole world and it’s meant to appeal to the diner on every level,” says the chef.
“I hope the platform of sustainability will follow me wherever I go,” he says. “This is something I really believe in.