By Tressa Eaton
Lionfish are the drama queens of the sea: Eye-catchingly gorgeous and prone to wreak havoc on everything they come in contact with.
Striped like a zebra and adorned with showy fins, it’s no wonder lionfish are a pretty pick for aquarium lovers. Unfortunately, when the genus is released into the wild, it spawns and releases thousands of eggs every few days, expanding the population exponentially and aggressively invading native fish habitats. Oh, and did we mention it has venomous spines, too?
When New York restaurateur Ryan Chadwick heard about the devastation lionfish was causing—it feeds on more than 50 economically and ecologically important species of fish—in Florida and the Caribbean’s coral reef ecosystems, he knew he wanted to be involved in finding a solution to the problem. The obvious and easiest answer? Eat more lionfish.
Chadwick told us, “It’s like a vacuum cleaner of the sea. It pretty much eats anything and since it has no known predators, nothing eats it.”
Thankfully lionfish are not only devastatingly beautifully, this fish is also incredibly delicious. You can find the flaky whitefish at Chadwick’s New York restaurant, Norman’s Cay where it’s always on the menu, grilled, fried or served in tacos.
If you are heading out to the Hamptons this summer, look for it at Chadwick’s newest spot, Grey Lady Montauk where it is seared in a cast iron pan and served with a Jerusalem artichoke puree, broccolini, pomegranate seeds and pistachios ($26). Or, get a case delivered straight to your door from Chadwick’s wholesale business, Norman’s Lionfish. Chadwick recommends throwing them on your grill whole with a little butter and garlic.
This killer fish is now available—and served—across the country. Whole Foods has just started to sell it, as well as other major food chains. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation has identified a roster of restaurants that serve the spiny lovely, as does Lionfish.
Just think— you could be grilling up a killer BBQ this weekend, all the while helping the planet. Now that’s a win-win.
For more fish fodder, see all of our related fish stories.