Chefs: Please Stop Calling It “Trash Fish”

Black cod en cactus "paper."  Photo by ALLAN ZEPEDA

By Maria Finn

I’m all for the spirit of the Trash Fish movement; getting lesser known species that were once discarded into the hands of skillful chefs who make them shine. I just don’t like the name. Chefs Collaborative has been holding “Trash Fish” dinners around the county since 2013 and they’ve started a seafood trend.

I was recently invited to a dinner at Scribe Vineyard by chef and restaurateur Gabriela Cámara from Mexico City and the publicist told me she used “Trash Fish.” The term made me flinch, but I wanted to see what she could do with our local fish, as she’s opening a seafood restaurant, Cala, in San Francisco this summer.

Black cod en cactus “paper.” Photo by ALLAN ZEPEDA

She made rockfish ceviche and black cod in adobo tacos. The black cod had been wrapped in fibers from cactus leaves, buried and pit cooked with the cactus; it was rich and smoky and totally sublime, but I flinched at calling these wonderful fish “Trash.” I talked to her about it, and she agreed 100%. But what to call it? Under utilized isn’t sexy, bycatch is too political: fish-without-a-market, under loved? There’s got to be a better term; the culinary trend of “Trash Fish” sounds catchy, but it hurts more than it helps.

Gabriela Camara and assistant cooking black cod in pit with agave cactus leaves. Photo by Maria Finn

The term “Trash Fish” devalues the role of the animal in the eco-system, and it kills any other market for them. For fish vendors that sell local seafood and for Community Supported Fisheries (CSF), it’s creating a problem. I work for the CSF, Real Good Fish (, in Moss Landing CA. and we recently signed onto a letter with many other CSF’s and sustainable seafood businesses and advocates. It was —> Read More