Responsible fishing in Manuel Antonio.

Re-connecting our Chefs with Fishermen to serve Sustainable Seafood

Dock to Dish in Costa Rica:  The process of implementing a program that “cuts out the middleman” and creates a relationship between local artisan fishermen and the chefs at our sustainable luxury hotels and lodges.

Last week we served our first “Dock to Dish” dinners at Arenas del Mar Resort in Manuel Antonio and Lapa Rios Ecolodge on the Osa Peninsula.  It was a great success.  Thanks to this program, we were able to re-establish a relationship with local fishermen in the communities where our hotels and lodges operate and ensure 100% fresh and sustainable seafood to our guests.

Seafood at Arenas del Mar
Dock to Dish Menu at Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica: Locally caught sustainable seafood makes a great match with high culinary standards and fine dining.  No need for any compromises…

A few months ago, we were approached by Sean Barrett, the founder of the Dock to Dish Program in the United States.  He expressed his interest in expanding the program to Latin America and we discovered that the Cayuga Collection would be the perfect fit.  Sean moved to Costa Rica for two months and has been helping us to implement the new program.  One of the most shocking discoveries for us was the fact that the local markets in the communities where we operate only offer frozen seafood imported from China or Vietnam.  How can that be?

Not sustainable seafood
Found in a Supermarket in the small town Puerto Jimenez of Puerto Jimenez, right next to the Pacific Ocean of Costa Rica.  Frozen Seafood imported from China, processed in the United States.  Makes no sense, right?

Dock to Dish is a Community Supported Fishery program for restaurants and works like the “Farm to Table” concept, but for seafood.  Just like in old days, we would connect directly with the local fishermen at the DOCK and buy their catch of the day to serve as the evening’s DISH.  We obviously don’t know what we will get and that requires a certain level of sophistication on our side in terms of the culinary skills of our staff.  But with some training and the help of guest chefs, we are able to overcome this challenge.

We are now offering a “Dock to Dish” night with a special menu using the catch that our fishermen brought us once a week. We also invite the fishermen to the hotel that evening so guests can meet them and learn about what it means to be fishing the Pacific Ocean of Costa Rica.  Our plan is to expand this.

Dock to Dish
Dock To Dish training material for waiters at the Cayuga Collection Hotels. The education of guests about the Dock to Dish program is a critical factor for success.

Unfortunately, we are not ready to serve “only” dock to dish at our hotels.  We still depend on intermediaries.   During the last year, we have worked hard to make sure that we never serve fish or seafood that is endangered and try to buy only sustainably caught fish.  This is sometimes hard to do, so we have teamed up with a local NGO called Mar Viva and continue to work on creating a certification program.  After many years of “begging” they have now published a list of fish and seafood and sustainability indicators associated with it.

We were privileged to have a team of professional filmmakers hired by Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City with us to document our first Dock to Dish events this week.  The footage will be used to create a feature documentary on sustainable fishing with stories from the US, Canada, Chile, Brazil, the Philippines and… Costa Rica.

Dock to Dish at Lapa Rios
The Bloomberg Film Crew in the Lapa Rios Ecolodge kitchen filming the plating of the Dock to Dish dinner.

This is only the beginning though.  In the next two weeks, we will take the Dock to Dish Program to Kura Design Villas in Uvita and then later in the year to Latitude 10 Resort in Santa Teresa, the Harmony Hotel in Nosara and eventually to Jicaro Island Eclodge in Nicaragua.  The idea is that every coastal Cayuga Collection property would have a Dock to Dish element in their seafood sourcing.

sustainable fishing in Costa Rica
Last week, we went fishing with the local fishermen of Puerto Jimenez. All was documented by the Bloomberg Film Crew for a big documentary on sustainable fishing worldwide.  Thank you John and Team of Spot Creative for your support.

We were going to get massive media coverage for our first event at Arenas del Mar with a visit from celebrity chef Niki Nakayama from Los Angeles.  Due to her busy schedule, she was scheduled to come for just 19 hours and cook with our local chefs the first Dock to Dish menu.  Due to a technical failure on her plane, this did not happen.  But we hope she can come down soon.  Also, Sean as told us that there are several Dock to Dish chefs interested in visiting us in Costa Rica including Dan Barber and Eric Ripert.

Lessons learned:  It’s the simple things in life that make sense and can make a difference.  If you are interested in learning more about this program and our efforts to serve sustainable seafood at our hotels and lodges, send us a note to [email protected]

Dock to Dish at Arenas del Mar
Interested in this tasting menu with local fish provided by Capitan Santos? Contact us at [email protected]

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