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."

EARLY WORK

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?’”

GEO-CONNECTION

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.’”

GET INVOLVED

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.

Chef: Barton Seaver
Barton Seaver is a chef.
Noun

the art and science of cultivating the land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

align
Verb

to put in a straight line.

appreciate
Verb

to understand and value something.

chef
Noun

head cook, responsible for menus, food preparation and presentation, and management of staff.

city
Noun

large settlement with a high population density.

community
Noun

group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

concept
Noun

idea.

consumption
Noun

process of using goods and services.

cultivate
Verb

to prepare and nurture the land for crops.

culture
Noun

learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

delicious
Adjective

pleasing to the taste.

dialogue
Noun

conversation between two people or organizations.

economy
Noun

system of production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

empirical
Adjective

able to be proved with evidence or experience.

environment
Noun

conditions that surround and influence an organism or community.

external
Adjective

outside of something.

Noun

group of organisms that come from the same ancestors and share similar characteristics. Family is also a classification in chemistry and math.

fish stock
Noun

amount of fish available to be harvested in a specific area at a specific time.

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

formula
Noun

a general fact or rule expressed in letters and symbols.

Noun

study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

grocery
Noun

food or other goods sold at a general store.

incentivize
Verb

to provide a person or group of people with reasons (usually economic) for doing something or acting in a certain way.

Latin America
Noun

South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Mexico.

Latino
Noun

having to do with people and culture who trace their ancestry to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations of Latin America.

low tide
Noun

water level that has dropped as a result of the moon's gravitational pull on the Earth.

market
Noun

central place for the sale of goods.

mussel
Noun

aquatic animal with two shells that can open and close for food or defense.

narrative
Noun

story or telling of events.

PhD
Noun

(doctor of philosophy) highest degree offered by most graduate schools.

prestigious
Adjective

having a good reputation.

proponent
Noun

supporter or advocate of something.

rapturous
Adjective

joyful and delighted.

restoration
Noun

repair of damage to an ecosystem so that it can function as a normal self-regulating system.

seafood
Noun

fish and shellfish consumed by humans.

specialize
Verb

to study, work, or take an interest in one area of a larger field of ideas.

subsistence fishing
Noun

harvesting seafood to meet the nutritional needs of an individual or family.

sustainable
Adjective

able to be continued at the same rate for a long period of time.

towhead
adjective, noun

very light blond hair.

Noun

small human settlement usually found in a rural setting.