Jax Executive Chef Sheila Lucero Hits Washington D.C.
This summer Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar’s executive chef traveled to Capitol Hill to fight for our oceans.
Jax Fish House’s very own Chef Sheila Lucero (center above) traveled to Capitol Hill this summer and tried her hand at politics. As a leading member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, she was invited to Washington, DC to meet with congressmen and policymakers to discuss sustainability and the health of our oceans. Several key policies are up for renewal this year, in particular the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which keeps coastal fishing practices at safe levels and has, since it was first enacted in 1976, set the gold standard worldwide for responsible and sustainable fishing. The newly proposed H.B. 200, or “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act”, would directly threaten these standards and negatively impact the health of our oceans.
Sheila was joined by chefs Susan Feniger (of Border Grill Restaurants in California and Nevada) and Steve Phelps (of Indigenous Restaurant in Florida), as well as scientists and policymakers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It was the first time the MBA sent chefs to Washington, and all in all it was considered a great success.
“It was such an honor as a chef, especially from a seafood restaurant in a landlocked state” says Sheila. “I think it really helped drive our message home—that the health of our oceans affects people coast to coast, and that both diners and restaurateurs truly care about where our food is coming from. People are more concerned about sustainability than ever before, and it is important that our voices are heard.”
In her talks with policymakers, Sheila emphasized the importance of a scientific approach to fisheries management. Modern guidelines for what species we catch, what season we catch them in, and the methods we use, ensure that we leave as little an imprint on already fragile ecosystems.
“As we say at Jax, ‘seafood is delicious, let’s make it last forever,’” says Sheila. “It’s scary to think that, not only could we lose those ingredients and those resources, but that we could lose an entire coastal ecosystem to negligence. We may be a small voice, far from the coasts in the center of the country, but we truly care and will do anything we can to help.”
Since joining the Jax family in 1996, Sheila has spearheaded a sustainability program to ensure that the seafood we serve is not only good for our guests, but also for the world we all live in. Under her guidance, Jax has partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, The Blue Ocean Institute, Sea to Table, and Fish Choice—among other sustainable seafood certification organizations—to share important news in the ever changing world within our oceans. Due to her efforts, the four Colorado Jax locations as well as Jax in Kansas City were the first in their respective states to be certified by Seafood Watch. As a leading member of Seafood Watch’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, Sheila works with other chefs from around the country to learn and share the very latest information on the state of our global fish stocks as well as the most progressive use of seafood in our restaurants.
“Chefs have spoken before congress about other food-related topics like agriculture and child hunger, but as far as I know this is the first time someone has spoken about seafood sustainability and the state of our nation’s fisheries,” says Sheila. “The best part by far was how receptive everyone was. They all seemed genuinely concerned about sustainability issues and were excited to discuss the topic with someone in the industry. Plus, everyone loves talking about food. That’s one cool thing about being a chef. We even met with a few fans of Jax Fish House!”