Dock to Dish fans, we’ve got good news and bad news. The good news, announced on April 19, is that Dock to Dish will be launching Central America’s first restaurant supported fishery program in Costa Rica at the end of next month. The bad news is that they’re going on hiatus from their operations in Montauk to do so.
But don’t eat your feelings in fishburgers just yet. We recently spoke to Dock to Dish co-founder Sean Barrett, and he assures us that in 2017 they’ll be back on the East End.
Machinations for the Costa Rica program began about eight months ago, when Dock to Dish was approached by an international organization interested in establishing a community supported fishery in Central America.
“Serendipity has a lot to do with all this,” says Barrett. “We crossed paths with this pair of Cornell University graduates who graduated from the School of Hospitality there. They opened a Cayuga Hotel chain, a string of eight really sustainable eco-lodges. We started conversations with them, and listened to them describe the same situation in Costa Rica that we’ve seen everywhere: an upside down marketplace for wild seafood.
“When I went down there, I was shocked to see imported Asian seafood pretty much everywhere. One big supermarket there had nothing else—just imported, Asian seafood. I was shocked by how similar the situation in Costa Rica is to what we’ve seen elsewhere.”
And so, sensing the urgency of the situation, Dock to Dish accepted the invitation to work abroad this summer.
“What we always seek from the very top is a philosophical alignment,” says Barrett. “There are all these questions that people want to know: the who, the what, the when. We always go for the why first. We want to know why this is important to people. If we agree on the why, it’s easy to figure out the rest.”
Between Dock to Dish and the chefs at Cayuga, the why was identical.
“We’re always driven by the core of what Dock to Dish delivers: the cleanest, healthiest food source that people on this planet can access, really. When you keep that issue front and center in your mind—when you’re exhausted and beaten up and you have a huge commute—that’s what gets you to bed at night and it’s what gets you up in the morning.”
“We all feel this palpable urgency,” says Barrett. “We know we have to do this—and fast. We’re in a global fisheries crisis right now.”
It is a crisis Dock to Dish is perfectly ready to address, though they are preparing for the inevitable challenges of working in Central America—the obvious language barrier chief among them.
“We’re preparing ourselves for what we’re calling the unknown unknowns,” says Barrett. “We have a big language barrier, so that will certainly be a challenge. I’m studying every night. We know there will be hurdles, but we’re confident because we have the why. We’re always driven by the core of what Dock to Dish delivers: the cleanest, healthiest food source that people on this planet can access, really. When you keep that issue front and center in your mind—when you’re exhausted and beaten up and you have a huge commute—that’s what gets you to bed at night and it’s what gets you up in the morning.”
Another source of the organization’s confidence is all the experience they’ve gained from working on the East End.
“We’ve had time here locally to refine the blueprint,” says Barrett. “We’ve learned a tremendous amount by trial and error. We’ve learned the cycles of the seasons. We’ve learned the ratios. We’ve fine-tuned the backside mathematics to have a pretty replicable blueprint at this stage of the game. It was all originally borrowed from Scott Chaskey from Quail Hill Farm, but still we took a lot of handsome brow-beatings in the beginning. We had to really hone in on what we were good at, stick to that, and create the blueprint around it.”
That Dock to Dish has found a blueprint that works is something to which every East Ender can attest. Which is why some aren’t taking the news of the Montauk CSF program’s hiatus so easily.
“We have a few members whose kids have grown up with us,” says Barrett. “They’re like, ‘Our kids won’t eat any other fish than from Dock to Dish.’ We have a number of members who are like, ‘Our kids don’t eat fish in the off-season.’ But this is temporary. We’ll be back.”
It will be a long year without them, as Dock to Dish continues to expand their status as local heroes to global heroes, but there is solace, at least, in knowing they’ll be back.
“It’s like Scott Chaskey said, ‘First grow deep roots, then grow strong branches.’ We’re confident that the roots and foundations that we have here on the East End will allow our branches elsewhere to grow strong.”
And it is to these deep roots that in the spring of 2017 Dock to Dish will return. To an East End undoubtedly over ready to welcome them back.
Dock to Dish’s Costa Rican RSF Program will launch on Monday, May 30, with a ceremonial community seafood dinner for participating fishermen and their families prepared by chef Nakayama, and sous chef Carole Lida, at Arenas del Mar Resort.