Niall Sabongi fell in love with seafood as a child living on the east coast of Ireland, where his father would bring him to the beach to find cockles and mussels to eat for dinner. Today, Niall is at the forefront of the conversation around Irish seafood. As a chef, he founded fish-centric favorite spots like Klaw, Saltwater Grocery, and most recently, The Seafood Cafe. While the stereotypical Irish ocean-based meal might be fish and chips or chowder, at Niall's restaurants, the incredibly wide range of Irish seafood is on display. Everything from oysters to crab to day boat scallops, as well as less common preparations like ceviche and cod collar, is prepared with expert attention and respect for the product.
Niall also founded Sustainable Seafood Ireland, a wholesaler focusing on wild-caught Irish seafood. SSI supplies his restaurants and others, making sure that the freshest fish from Ireland’s coasts gets on the plate at some of Ireland's best restaurants. During the pandemic, SSI pivoted and made their products available to individuals rather than restaurants, which helped increase general awareness of the truly incredible bounty of Irish wild seafood (something that historically has not been so widespread as it is today).
We spoke to Niall about what drove him to focus on seafood, his evolution from chef to entrepreneur, why it’s important to directly support independent, small boat fishermen, the seasonality of fish, and using oysters for water reclamation projects.
Dyed Green is a project of Bog & Thunder, whose mission is to highlight the best of Irish food and culture, through food tours, events, and media. Find out more at www.bogandthunder.com.
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