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Meet a CSA Chef: Sammy Monsour

The Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture is proud to uplift the voices of our Future Leaders in this blog series: Meet a CSA Chef. In this series, we will interview the chefs who are members of CSA. We’ll learn what inspires them, what aquaculture means to the food they create, and why they advocate for sustainable aquaculture.  

We’d like to introduce you to Chef Sammy Monsour, Michelin Award-winning chef and co-owner of Joyce in Los Angeles. 

 

Sammy Monsour
Chef Sammy Monsour

Why did you join the CSA?

My journey into the realm of food and climate activism has been multifaceted, spanning from sustainable seafood sourcing to broader issues such as supply chain transparency and social equity. As I delved deeper into these interconnected issues, I recognized the critical role that policy plays in driving meaningful and scalable change.

Joining the Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture was a natural progression in my advocacy journey. The opportunity to contribute to the creation of this coalition, alongside passionate individuals, was incredibly exciting. Together, we’ve established a formidable coalition and assembled a team of 25 dedicated chef advocates. Our collective goal is to champion science-based, responsible aquaculture and advance policies like the SEAfood Act that promote sustainable aquaculture practices.

I firmly believe that our efforts within the CSA are vital for the future of food systems, not only in the United States but globally. Much like the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs our wild fisheries and sets a global standard for science-based policy, our work with the CSA has the potential to establish a robust framework for responsible offshore net pen aquaculture.

Our mantra, “Grow it here, do it right,” encapsulates our commitment to sustainable aquaculture practices that prioritize environmental health, food security, and community well-being. By advocating for policies that support responsible aquaculture, we aim to create a future where nutritious and sustainably sourced seafood is accessible to all, while safeguarding the health of our oceans and ecosystems.

 

As a chef / small business owner, why is supporting something like the SEAfood Act important to you?

Food is not just sustenance; it’s intertwined with every aspect of human life. As a chef and small business owner, I see firsthand the profound impact food has on individuals, communities, and the environment. That’s why initiatives like the SEAfood Act are crucial.

Firstly, food represents more than just nutrition; it embodies culture, celebration, and emotion. As chefs, we hold a unique position of influence in shaping people’s dietary choices. Our patrons trust us not only for culinary expertise but also for guidance on sourcing sustainable ingredients. This trust comes with a responsibility—to advocate for a food system that prioritizes environmental stewardship and ethical sourcing.

In my restaurant, Joyce, located in Los Angeles, sustainability is a cornerstone of our menu. Nearly 60% of our offerings consist of seafood. That seafood is sourced sustainably, with a significant portion sourced from aquaculture farms. While we strive to support American aquaculture, but the reality is that certain species–particularly saltwater finfish–pose challenges due to limited availability compared to wild-caught varieties.

Here lies the significance of the SEAfood Act. By promoting sustainable aquaculture practices and incentivizing domestic production, this legislation not only enhances food security but also fosters economic growth within the seafood industry. Access to a diverse range of domestically farmed seafood not only expands culinary possibilities but also reduces reliance on imported products, thus supporting local economies and reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.

As a chef committed to sustainability, I wholeheartedly endorse the SEAfood Act. It aligns with my values of environmental responsibility and community engagement. By supporting initiatives that promote sustainable seafood practices, we not only safeguard marine ecosystems but also ensure a vibrant future for the culinary industry and the communities we serve.

 

What is your favorite seafood to cook and why?

My favorite seafood to cook and serve is whole finfish, particularly those in the 2-3 pound range. There’s something inherently special about preparing and presenting an animal in its entirety—it’s rustic, visually striking, and undeniably delicious.

Cooking whole fish, especially with the head on, holds a deeper significance for me. It’s a practice that honors the life of the animal and serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness between our food and the natural world. Each meal becomes a moment of reflection, acknowledging the sacrifice made by the fish to sustain our lives.

In today’s fast-paced, convenience-driven society, where food often comes pre-packaged and disconnected from its origins, cooking and sharing a meal centered around a whole fish can be a grounding experience. It encourages us to slow down, reconnect with our food, and appreciate the abundance of nature.

Furthermore, sharing such a meal with loved ones fosters a sense of gratitude and togetherness. It’s a reminder of the simple joys of gathering around the table, savoring each bite, and engaging in meaningful conversation.

Ultimately, cooking whole finfish is not just about culinary prowess; it’s a way of paying homage to the natural world and cultivating a deeper connection to the food we eat. It’s a practice rooted in gratitude, respect, and the timeless tradition of sharing nourishment with those we cherish.