As the runner-up on Season 4 of Top Chef Masters, Chef Kerry Heffernan talks to us about his current political passion for restoring fisheries and saving sea life, plus he gives valuable advice for the new contestants on season 5. We were fortunate to join Chef Heffernan in Sag Harbor a fews years back to learn more about sustainable fishing, and how to cook and prepare these types of fish that live by Heffernan’s home in Sag Harbor. Read our Q&A and watch our video below.
Progressive Pulse: With Top Chef Masters Season 5 kicking off this week, what did you take away from your season, and how would you summarize your experience on the show?
Kerry Heffernan: Great, good luck to them all, many are friends and some huge talent! I took away what everyone takes away from a huge challenge – personal growth and many new friends. In short, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and one I grew from immensely. I’d do it again in second!
Heffernan: Don’t read the blogs!
Progressive Pulse: As a successful chef prior to Top Chef Masters, did being on the show help your career in any way?
Heffernan: Many ways. It opened up new avenues, but again, showed me more about myself in the process.
Progressive Pulse: I was fortunate to go out fishing with you a few years back in Sag Harbor. I learned a lot about sustainability and uncommon fish that you grow and catch by your house in Sag Harbor. Can you talk about the types of fish and sea life that exists by your home?
Heffernan: Well there are a bunch, but certainly Clams, Sea Robins, Porgy and Whelk would be the ones to have a closer look at in my mind.
Progressive Pulse: In your opinion, why don’t more restaurants feature the types of fish that you caught on that outing, versus common fish like Halibut, Bass etc that are on every menu?
Heffernan: Ease of buying those common types, and certainly, more than a bit of laziness on the part of the Restaurateur on educating his clients.
Progressive Pulse: You’ve mentioned that you are working on some political changes regarding fish in Washington. Can you explain?
Heffernan: I went down to work on a “Catch Share” Program with EDF (Environmental Defense Fund), and lobbied several Congressman and Senators, so far so good! I will forward the link: http://www.edf.org/oceans/catch-shares
Progressive Pulse: You’ve worked and helped City Harvest. Can you talk about this important organization and your work with them in New York?
Heffernan: City Harvest has become a shining example of a food rescue operation that has changed the face of both fighting hunger and nutritional education in our area.
I am proud to have been able to help them, as have many of my fellow chefs, in some small way go from simply repurposing leftovers from restaurants to becoming a major force in helping feed the hungry in a scale I never imagined, especially in the face of the enormous cuts in food assistance. http://www.cityharvest.org/
Progressive Pulse: I’ve also heard you’re working on a new book. Can you tell us the subject matter and when we can expect it?
Heffernan: Subject is a passionate and personal study of 12 Months on the East End, all about cooking both seasonally and locally in Sag Harbor and beyond, should be another 18 months or so!
Progressive Pulse: What Summer tips for cooking fish can you give our readers?
Heffernan: Buy Local, Smell the product, and ask for Porgy!
Progressive Pulse: What’s the best way to keep up with you socially, and do you have any upcoming appearances??