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Greg Higgins

Chef Greg Higgins filleting wild salmonGreg Higgins has been the co-owner and executive chef at Higgins Restaurant in Portland, Oregon, since its opening in 1994. Focusing on Northwest regional cuisine, Higgins believes strongly in supporting fishing techniques that are sustainable, organic, and regenerative. He prepares fine cuisine in support of his premise that food is community—an idea that creates respect, commitment, and responsibility from fisherman to chef to diner.

What are your favorite seafoods to eat?
Prime wild Chinook salmon and fresh Pacific Northwest razor clams.

What are your favorite seafoods to prepare at the restaurant?
I like to prepare everything, but my favorite foods to prepare are the same as my favorite foods to eat.

What are the most popular seafood dishes on your menu?
My menu changes weekly, but year in and year out the most popular dishes are Alaskan halibut and Chinook salmon.

How did you get interested in the issue of sustainable seafood?
It was a gradual process. I’ve been cooking in the Pacific Northwest for 20 years and over time I began to get curious about the sources of seafood supplied to my restaurant. I just followed that trail of curiosity. For example, I noticed how farm-raised salmon was entering the market in the 1980s and wanted to know more about it, especially after I was unable to get a straight answer from my suppliers about the issue.

How would you describe your philosophy on ocean conservation?
My basic premise is to select seafood that comes from sustainable methods of capture, such as hook- or line-caught fish. It’s also important for me to buy seafood that comes only from within this region—from Northern California to southern Alaska. Purchasing fish raised through aquaculture can also be OK, but only in some cases.

How has your philosophy changed what you serve?
I’ve had this philosophy since even before I opened my own restaurant. The species of seafood that I serve changes as I reassess their methods of capture.

Do you feel it limits what you can offer?
Not explicitly. I think it makes us more creative with our recipes. By the way, I also have this same philosophy about the sources of all of the foods that we serve here, including meats and vegetables, which all come from this region.

Have your diners noticed?
We have a strong following here and it’s gotten a good response. The emphasis on serving sustainable food is the underpinning of the restaurant, but our information about the issue is discreetly displayed; we don’t force it on people.

Have your seafood purveyors worked with you on getting sustainable seafood?
When I’m able to work one on one with a fisherman, yes, it’s been mutually beneficial. But it gets to be more challenging with middlemen and larger companies. It becomes problematic for them.

Why do you work with Seafood Choices Alliance?
It’s important to share this sort of information with everyone else out there. For me, it’s one more tool to reel in the flow of information on what we can and cannot serve our customers.

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