Barton is a chef who specializes in sustainable seafood. As Barton told the Washington Post, "There's this scientific approach to sustainability. And then there's a human one. You start talking about fish, and it's automatically some empirical formula which takes a PhD to understand.
“I'm not trying to save the fish. I'm trying to save dinner."
“Food was where my family became a family,” recalls Barton, who grew up in Washington, D.C. He remembers his family cooking together and exploring the city’s many markets and specialty grocery stores, especially those catering to the Latino community.
The family sometimes traveled outside the city. “I collected mussels at low tide in Nova Scotia [Canada]. . . . There was a sense that I was where the food came from, and not the other way around.”
Barton graduated from the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He then spent time in Spain and Morocco, where he worked with villagers who approached seafood differently—“They were fishing for dinner, not dollars,” Barton says.
MOST EXCITING PART OF YOUR WORK
“Showing people that these ideas are not external. . . . Sustainability, geography, and community are a part of their lives.
“I’m lucky,” Barton says. “I don’t have to sell science. I can sell delicious.”
MOST DEMANDING PART OF YOUR WORK
“Travel and being away from my wife.”
HOW DO YOU DEFINE GEOGRAPHY?
Barton defines geography with two questions that he says guide and divide the world: “‘What’s for dinner?’ and ‘Will there be dinner?’”
Barton came to appreciate the concept of sustainability while living in Morocco. There, working with subsistence farmers and fishermen, he made the connection between human consumption, the natural environment, and the economy.
“We can’t remove the ‘culture’ from ‘agriculture,’” Barton says.
Although he is one of the most successful proponents of “sustainable seafood,” it’s a term Barton actually dislikes. “It’s more a narrative of restoration,” he says. “We need to re-align the dialogue, from ‘sustainability’ to ‘restoration.’ . . . If we have the power to screw things up, we have the power to restore.”
Part of this dialogue includes “incentivizing proper behavior” with low prices and tasty seafood cultivated from healthy fish stocks.
SO, YOU WANT TO BE A . . . CHEF
“Start to think about food as a vehicle to find your own interests. Don’t be set on a single job at a ‘white-table restaurant.’”
Barton encourages families and consumers to make a connection between food they eat and where it comes from.
He remembers his father making tacos from scratch, for instance, while he and his brother watched. “Here were these two little towhead boys rapturously wondering about 1,000 years of Latin American history,” he says.
the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).
to put in a straight line.
to understand and value something.
head cook, responsible for menus, food preparation and presentation, and management of staff.
large settlement with a high population density.
group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.
process of using goods and services.
to prepare and nurture the land for crops.
learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.
pleasing to the taste.
conversation between two people or organizations.
system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.
able to be proved with evidence or experience.
conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.
outside of something.
group of organisms that come from the same ancestors and share similar characteristics. Family is also a classification in chemistry and math.
amount of fish available to be harvested in a specific area at a specific time.
material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.
a general fact or rule expressed in letters and symbols.
study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.
food or other goods sold at a general store.
to provide a person or group of people with reasons (usually economic) for doing something or acting in a certain way.
South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.
having to do with people and culture who trace their ancestry to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Latin America.
water level that has dropped as a result of the moon's gravitational pull on the Earth.
central place for the sale of goods.
aquatic animal with two shells that can open and close for food or defense.
story or telling of events.
(doctor of philosophy) highest degree offered by most graduate schools.
having a good reputation.
supporter or advocate of something.
joyful and delighted.
repair of damage to an ecosystem so that it can function as a normal self-regulating system.
fish and shellfish consumed by humans.
to study, work, or take an interest in one area of a larger field of ideas.
harvesting seafood to meet the nutritional needs of an individual or family.
able to be continued at the same rate for a long period of time.
very light blond hair.
small human settlement usually found in a rural setting.