Sustainability Translate To Delicious
Having produced 275 half hour episodes of my television series, Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert and having written literally hundreds of articles focusing on food and wine, I often get asked a familiar question. “What are my favorite restaurants?” It’s a difficult, if not downright impossible, question to answer as there are so many mitigating factors. This much I can say though, it’s the people, passion, and vision of a restaurant that impacts me as much as, if not more, than the cuisine. Today, I bring you the story of one of those restaurants – Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar.
There are two people who’ve helped Jax leap to the top of my favorite restaurants list – Founder Dave Query and Executive Chef Sheila Lucero. I first met Query when he was in town opening the first Jax outside Colorado in the West Plaza neighborhood. I was immediately struck by his passion, not just for the restaurant business, but for his vision of how Jax fit into that business. It was interesting to me that Query chose two landlocked states to launch a small chain of seafood restaurants, which he explained in an early conversation. “I view airports as seaports, so wherever there’s an airport, I can get fresh seafood. In fact, we have advantages other seafood restaurants on the coasts don’t have in that we get our product from both the west and east coast as well as the Gulf of Mexico, so we have even more diversity,” Query shared.
But, it wasn’t just fresh seafood Query was focused on. It was sustainable fresh seafood. To ensure that, Jax partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and become the first restaurant in Colorado to be certified by that program. “Every decision we make is guided by our concern for the world’s oceanic fish stocks,” Query stated.
Executive Chef Sheila Lucero put that policy into practice. Not long ago, Lucero was named to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Blue-Ribbon Task Force, a group that lobbies congress on oceanic matters. Last summer, Lucero was one of three chefs on the task force selected to go to Washington, D.C. for face to face meetings. “I was nervous at first, but when we got into the meetings, it was great. I’d do it again for sure.”
Lucero said the aquarium picked her in part because she represented restaurants in Colorado and Missouri and not just Florida and California. “I was an ace in the hole, but sustainability is just as important here as it is on the coasts,” Lucero pointed out.
It certainly helps that Query and Lucero’s concern for sustainability translates into some of the freshest, most delicious seafood I’ve ever had. Their charbroiled oysters might just be my favorite dish in the entire metro! But, it’s more than the meals I’ve had at Jax that matters to me, it’s the fact that thanks to restauranteurs like Query and chefs like Lucero we can all enjoy those meals for generations to come.
About the Author: Dave Eckert is a long-time journalist whose career spans nearly four decades. Over that time, Eckert has been a television anchor and reporter, including 5 years at KMBC in Kansas City, the host of Culinary Travels with Dave Eckert, which aired across the country on PBS and cable for 11 seasons, and a food and beverage journalist for this publication, KC Chowtown, the Kansas City Star’s on-line food blog, and WDAF-TV’s morning news.