ingredients that are being over used

Joined Jun 22, 2006
just curious on what most of you chefs if you have a choice on planning a menu on what kinds of ingredients that are, lets say, tuna being over fished?

ive kinda stopped eating tuna because of over fishing and when i do see it on a menu i kinda grimace sometimes, i know its a really good fish to serve, i think it taste great and all, but what do you chefs really think about ingredients that are being over fished or are getting rare due to over usage such as cod, caviar. (doesnt seem to be meat...)
Joined Apr 12, 2005

it bugs me when I hear the term "overfished" used to describe why a fish isn't on a menu - most people have NO IDEA what fish are over or underfished. It's not their fault, it's just what the media tells them.

for instance:

Tuna - not overfished.
cod - not overfished.
Caviar (russian, caspian) - functionally extinct.
seabass (I assume Chilean) - not overfished.

Now here's where my credibility comes to question - why would someone say these things about fish that we KNOW are overfished? I sit on the board of directors of an advocacy group for reptile and amphibian conservation. I know it isn't fish, but I also sold fish on the retail side for almost 8 years. Being involved in conservation and fish sales at the same time forced me to be pro-active in learning the hows and whys of fishing and overfishing.

So i read the papers, I looked at the surveys, I talked to fishermen and distributors. I talked to conservation officials. I had to get the whole story.

So here is what I got from my research regarding the above mentioned fish:

1) All fish, oceans, and ecosystems are in serious trouble. At a certain point, conservation is like putting a rock in front of a moving train; it might make a dent, but we have a LONG way to go. Our air and water is cleaner than it was a hundred years ago, but not clean enough. A lot of damage is already done, and is irreversible.

2) The term "overfished" is over used. Most fish that people think are overfished are not. This is intentional misleading by researchers and media. The status of US fisheries are evaluated constantly by the government, and overfished fisheries are managed intensively. Certainly you are not going to be able to buy a US fish from an overfished fishery. Perhaps an imported fish, but that's a whole different can of worms.

However, there are many fisheries that are exceeding their sustainable catch, or use fishing methods which are not sustainable. there is a big difference between "overfished" and "overfishing."

For instance, the way that tuna are fished was changed in the late 80's. We all remember when "Dolphin safe" was the big thing? Tuna fishermen used to target the large fish that ran with dolphin schools, and in doing so would inadvertantly suffer some "bycatch" - in this case, dolphins.

When the dolphin-safe bandwagon rolled in, the tuna fishermen had to change tactics, so now they target the smaller, immature yellowfin that hang around offshore detritus - but here's the catch - it takes ten 100# tuna to make up for one 1000# tuna. So now the question is, will tuna become overfished because we are taking so many of them?

that's where the media comes in. They hear that word "overfished," and they are on it like flies. All of a sudden, tuna is overfished. Sorry, thats incorrect.

Similar thing with chilean seabass - there are TONS of seabass, they have an enormous range in the south half of the southern hemisphere, and the liscenced commercial fisherman will never be allowed to overfish them. But there are also lots of pirates in the seabass trade, unliscenced fishermen who sell the fish overseas to people who don't need a papertrail...

boycotting seabass in the US will put those legitimate fishermen out of business, and the pirates will continue to take whatever they want. Bad idea. Good idea? More policing of international waters where seabass are caught. They started that in the last ten years, especially after 9/11 - wouldn't want someone crashing a seabass into the statue of liberty.

Cod haven't been overfished in years, they reached a low point at the turn of the 19th century but have rebounded to record numbers now - groundfishermen are up in arms because they still aren't allowed to fish them, despite enormous quanities of cod.

Caviar is the only real sticking point here...the Beluga, Sevruga and Osetra sturgeons are in serious trouble. The method of harvest is unsustainable, the quantity of fish is very small, and demand is very high. They will continue to be hunted (likely into extinction) by locals who have no other way of feeding themselves or their family. Taste it now, if you haven't...because you might not get the chance later.

Domestic sturgeon caviars are very good, and much cheaper...white sturgeon, farm raised in california, is probably better than osetra.

Enough for now!!

Joined Sep 28, 2006
Well, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (which represents 1,600 marine scientists) seems to disagree with you where cod is concerned ("Will Atlantic cod stocks recover?").

My impression is that - in Europe at least - changes in eating habits (e.g. the move away from beef in the UK in the 1990s; the increased availability of vegetarian meal choices) are brought about not by chefs, but by consumers.

For example, practically every restaurant in the UK offers vegetarian meals as a matter of course. This isn't driven by the kitchen saying, "Let's put vegetarian meals on the menu to save the baa-lambs/fight deforestation/improve our customers' health". It's because British customers demand vegetarian meals, and avoid restaurants that don't offer vegetarian choices. (This isn't yet the case in the US - as Free Rider knows only too well!)

Ethical sourcing is already having an impact in the UK - menus make a virtue of the fact that their salmon is organically farmed, or that they use only free-range eggs or fair-trade chocolate - in response to customer demands. My partner's staff restaurant at work is debating a move to fair-trade coffee, for instance.

The bottom line is that, until consumers pressurise restaurants to think ethically when they create menus and source ingredients, chefs just won't bother. But when foods such as tuna and ray become scarcer and prohibitively expensive as a result of overfishing, chefs are going to have to look to alternatives.
Joined Apr 12, 2005
Ah, interesting. but only half the story.

Cod fishing was pretty much banned in 1994, to allow stocks to rebuild - what populations are allowed to be fished are considered large enough to sustain legal fishing. The population still fluctuates from year to year, and stocks and management programs are re-evaluated.

Pirates still land large amounts of cod, but cod stocks are rebuilding. On the USA's east coast, fishermen are having trouble keeping cod catches DOWN, because they are becoming abundant where the target fish are.

If I am not mistaken (and I might be, but last I checked) Cod is legally considered "overfishing" and not "overfished." IF the necessary steps have been put in place to protect it, to not eat it on principle is only hurting the fishermen who depend on it.

Edit: It would be great to all move to sustainable, chemical free food sources. Don't get the wrong idea. I'm just trying to say that conservation is built-in to the price of something like seabass - wonder why it's 25$ a lb? Lots of money needed to police the paper trail, lots of money needed to create accountability...there are plenty of seabass, because the fishery managers work hard to keep it that way. We all pay the price because of other's irresponsibility, but it's already dead - eat it. I don't have the money or the research to second guess the fishery managers, and I know i'd be mad if people started boycotting restaurants because someone standing on the corner (illegally) selling tamales could undercut my (legal but more expensive) tamales.

Joined Dec 25, 2006
parsley.... its over used...

i know this thread seems to be more a "over fished, over farmed" thread now...

but half the chefs in the kitchen i work at use parsley to garnish the meals be it as a sprig or chopped (which is nice in the linguini and the lasagne, but superfluous in all the other meals)

personally i dont garnish it if all i have is parsley... i use mint on the chocolate desserts, a small sprig of it in the middle

problem is i work for a large company.. they own like 2500 places and the sub place i work for ... about 110 places... all of which have to put parsely on all the meals and mint and icing sugar on all the deserts...

dont tell my boss, but i dont... i do if i think it will help, sometimes its nice to use a sprig of parsley to 'hold' the bun onto a burger... its nice, a talking point to the table, its nice to have a sprig of mint laid ontop of a chocolate brownie, but its pointless, the times i get meals back to the potwash with the parsley left on the side of the plate... with the bit of food it was touching carefully cut out and left with it is impressive at best!

i found some coriander and some other herbs in the stores the other day though so ive been using different garnishes... shhh... dont tell my KM
Joined Sep 9, 2005
TOTALLY! I agree whole-heartedly.

I work at a place who's motto is: "if it's not green, it's obscene". I sware, they throw parseley on EVERYTHING... if it's not parsley, it's green onion, or cilantro... even if it doesn't make sense to do so.

I've gotten to the point where I try to avoid the parsley on things that I know don't need it.
Joined May 26, 2001
In the same vein: mint on desserts. :mad:

Here in NYC, pork belly is all over the place. But you won't hear me complaining. :lips: :lol:


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001

"Thai curry" this, "Thai curry" that?

Wasabi... that too.
Joined Jun 22, 2006
i dont quite get your thai curry and wasabi thing, but i agree towards the over use of parsley and mint.

To the issue of over fishing, the thing is, why is it that fishermen, instead of fishing for such popular fish, find another species of fish. the Ocean is huge, but yet its a few fish that are really being over fished, i guess after reading all of this i shouldn't use it, but for some reason, i still feel its a valid statement.

Pirates indeed might hurt the industry and all, but then if you say, "if its dead, eat it", it creates more demand which makes things worst, no? I believe that if the demand stop, then the pirates will stop. if the fishermen can fish differnt types of fish, would it not be better for consumers to have many choices, to force them in a sense to choose different fishes to consume and not just rather a few. Of course it seems a bit of a contradiction that either wise, these pirates are force feeding a certain fish down ours throats, due to because the supply of it.

One other thing, why is it that our food on land doesnt ever seem to go exticnt? unless im wrong of course, which i guess i will be.
Joined Mar 16, 2005
But they do, we don't eat Ortolan these days, do we? :)

Also, unlike our ocean resources, a vast majority of the land foods we eat are domesticated and farmed, most of the stuff we find at sea are caught wild (although you can rest assured that some seafood, like cultivated mussels, farmed atlantis salmon will probably not go extinct). Aquaculture is still for the most part pretty harmful to the marine wildlife (although you can say that about traditional agriculture too, but we're just more accustomed to its effects now).

I assure you that if we ever started getting craving for various wild game (which mostly can't be served here for health and safety regulations), we will hunt them to extinction... I mean we hunt other land animals to extinction for things less necessary than food.
Joined Apr 12, 2005
You are absolutely correct. A funny side note, Atlantic salmon are very critically endangered. That is why you never EVER see wild caught atlantics. They are suffering from habitat destruction, more than overfishing - no rivers left to spawn in, can't get up the dams.

Edit: Aquaculture is the single most efficient farming method that we currently use. the "bad for the environment" thing is somewhat true(man doesn't do anything that doesn't effect the environment in some way), but aquaculture leaves the smallest footprint of any of our agricultural techniques.

as for demand, the american government (Actualy, for once) does a pretty good job of regulating its fisheries, especially in the last 20 years...look to asia for the big consumers of illegal seafood...china has eaten almost ALL of its turtles, and is now importing them from indonesia and SW asia...I'm the least xenophobic person you will EVER find, but the illegal food trade MUST stop if we want to save anything - stop the illegal trade first, THEN worry about demand. Keep eating the legally caught stuff, it supplies the money and resources that are needed to stop the illegally caught's a vicious circle, if demand slumps, take will remain the same, but prices will fall and regulation will suffer. Fishermen are the single biggest monetary contributors to ocean conservation.

Joined Jun 22, 2006
^ I highly agree with you on illegal trade and it is a real shame that people want to eat so much of endangered speicies, infact, the rhino's in asia are nearly all gone jsut for the tusk.

By the way, i read that farmed salmon is actaulyl destroying the wild salmon population, it seems that some baby salmon from the farms escaped and bred with the wild. However, the off spring didnt know where to go for the breeding areas and just swam around till they died. Anyone know any more about this?
Joined Jan 11, 2007
Water. Water is vastly overused. Same with butter. And that salt stuff. Some people insist on putting it in everything.
Joined Apr 12, 2005
There is a certain amount of escapees that occur with farm raising of salmon, but my understanding is that the vast majority of escapees do not survive their first year, and all fail to be competitive with the native wild fish. I also read an article which claimed that a lot of wild fish were testing positive for carrying genes that were distinctly farm raised, but I think it was funded by PEW or one of the other secret agenda charities...more information is available at, I can't remember if they have the study published on their site or not. In any case, interesting read.

Joined Jun 27, 2006
Sweet entrees, whiskey/bourbon as a sauce medium (shame since one of my BBQ sauces has had JD in it for years now), Chipotle peppers (same for this one since I've used it in one glaze for 15 years too), corn sweetners in general and many Food Network actors catch phrases.
Joined Apr 17, 2003
for goodness sake, i wish people who don't know how to use ingredients properly would stop using them.

i agree with the chipotles

cilantro most certainly has its place. but it is abused big time by most folks.

****, i saw charlie trotter doing what at first were some great looking Maryland style crab cakes-very authentic.

then, WHAMO!, he throws in a huge handful of cilantro that he passed a knife through about three times---what are they thinking???????
Joined Jun 22, 2006
ha, personally i love cilantro or parsley as it is called here (coriander, chinese parsley, btw is cilantro an american thing?), anyway, i would eat this stuff by itself, i just love it. of course it wouldnt be right if its placed in a cream sauce or something like that, but crab cakes seem like a right place.
Top Bottom