The word sustainable in the context of food can be loaded with marketing muscle or buzz-friendly salesmanship. Much like how the terms ‘organic’ or ‘free-range’ can be misconstrued, such can be the case with ‘sustainable’. But what happens when ‘sustainable’ actually lives up to the expectations? When it has evidence, proof, and volition behind it? Then it can be a powerful thing. Which is what is happening at West Seattle’s Mashiko. Chef Hajime Sato has overturned Mashiko’s menu to be completely sustainable; it is one of only three sushi restaurants with this distinction nationwide. And it is the only one led by a Japanese-born sushi chef. Take the classical skill and tradition of a sushi chef with a modern desire to be stewards of the ocean and you have a powerful thing.
My food friend Nancy Leson, touched on the impetus of when Chef Hajime wanted to make the turn to sustainability. Interesting bit of backstory on how Mashiko will make this transition. And it’s for the benefit of consumers and the seafood we indulge in. It’s unfortunate that bluefin tuna has been so overfished that we may not be able to enjoy it again. And that’s the point of this shift to sustainability; serve what’s good, but also what’s available.
Back in July, the great Traca Savadogo organized an event centered around the film, ‘The End of the Line’. This documentary was about the oceans, sustainability, and how the fishing industry has been affected. Much of it was focused on bluefin and overfishing. It was a sobering look at how the oceans and fish have been affected. Yet, there is still hope. Look at the example that Alaska has set. The state has been forward-thinking with setting catch limits and monitoring fishing to ensure that the industry, so vital to Alaska, will continue to flourish. The hope that came about in the movie is that we make a conscious choice with what to eat, even sushi. We make decisions every minute of our day. And when it comes to eating sushi, sustainability provides context to that decision. This was a strong purpose of the event; to highlight how both fishing and sustainability are important to the success of the industry.
We’re fortunate that we have gobs of information at our disposable. The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides wallet cards distinguishing sustainable fish and those that are not. The Marine Stewardship Council also provides similar info. Taking it another level, one of the more vibrant voices in the quest for sustainable sushi is Casson Trenor. He’s the man behind sustainablesushi.net and has published a book about the subject as well. Casson was also on hand for the End of the Line event and his passion for the subject was obvious; he talked about the oceans, why some farmed fish is bad, and how the sushi industry has been slow on the uptake to make the shift to sustainability. And he mentioned that some restaurants are making the change to consider sustainability seriously and that he was consulting with one here in Seattle. That place is Mashiko.
I should have taken the hint that something was up at the event. I saw Chef Hajime there and we spoke briefly. Yet, he was the only local sushi chef that I noticed in the audience. So I emailed Hajime and he informed me that yes, Mashiko will make the shift to being 100% sustainable. And that shift happened last weekend. Officially, on August 15 of 2009, West Seattle’s Mashiko is our beacon for sustainable sushi.
This is all very exciting and I look forward to visiting soon. I’ve always enjoyed my visits to Mashiko (it’s one of my favorite places), and now I look forward to trying it again – they are distinctly creative at creating new works of art. Seattle loves sustainability and having the option to go to a sushi spot that serves well-sourced sushi is pretty exciting. Hopefully more and more of our local places will start transitioning.