Steve Black — Fishing Passion Inspires Culinary CreationsBy Zuzana Prochazka
Published: April/May 2013
When I caught my first fish, I was hooked myself," says Steve Black, executive chef of the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in San Diego, California. "I was always an outdoor kid, but I was a hunter and an archer and never got to do much fishing growing up in inland New Jersey. Then, when I was cooking at the Sheraton in Boston in the 1980s, I heard a couple of guys talking about bluefish and joined them on a rental boat for a day of fishing. I loved it." It wasn't long before Black bought his first boat, a 17-foot Boston Whaler centerconsole. "It really pounded, but I was in my 20s and could take it," he laughs. "The East Coast is great for quick trips, and you can get to good fishing in just a couple of miles."
Black graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island and developed his culinary skills before heading, in 1990, to Strasbourg, France, where he worked with his French father-in-law alongside several five-star Michelin chefs. "I thought I knew how to cook," he says. "But everything over there tasted amazing. You really work around the seasons and what's fresh." Armed with that insight, he returned to the U.S. in 1992, picked up his Boston Whaler from his parents' house, and towed it cross-country to San Diego where he's been for the past 20 years. He's since upgraded to a 25-foot Whaler named Sweet Revenge, partly because of the model name, and partly because he considers it a "sweet boat." He keeps it at the marina behind the hotel and goes out whenever he can.
"Along with a few weekends, we plan three, five-day trips each year," says Black. "My favorite place is Pyramid Cove on San Clemente Island." It's not a small undertaking to put together a multi-day trip on a 25-foot boat, 65 miles offshore. The West Coast is exposed to the full fetch of the Pacific with few places to hide from the weather, and nowhere to stop for supplies once out. But one of his favorite things in boating is planning for the trip, provisioning, and working out the navigation. He puts aboard 50 extra gallons of gas and lots of ice and water. "You can't forget anything because there's nowhere to stop." The quintessential optimist, Black only stocks two steaks (for the first night) and lots of produce. After that, it's all up to him and his friend to catch enough for fish tacos, ceviche, a fish fry, and maybe even some chowder — all cooked aboard, fresh from the sea. He can recall every detail of every trip and what he cooked.
His fishing-inspired recipes appear on the Sheraton menus, as well as in fishing magazines and the websites he writes for, and he's cooked for celebrities such as Richard Dreyfuss, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Hal Holbrook and the late Dixie Carter (two avid sailors themselves). Lobster with avocado salad, and salmon with braised cabbage and red wine sauce are some original recipes he's published. He likes to use local yellowtail, dorado, and halibut. With one of his children off to college soon, he's put his next boat purchase on hold. "I'd really like one more Boston Whaler, a 27-footer with good deck space," he says. "But college first." Instead he says he intends to continue enjoying Sweet Revenge for quick getaways.
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See Steve Black's exclusive recipes for BoatUS: roasted salmon on saffron couscous and ratattouille with a fresh bean salad and homemade herb vinaigrette.
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