Co-founder of Mexican restaurant group Wahaca, Thomasina Miers, has called on restaurants and chefs to champion sustainable fish and seafood sources, and said any business that does not is "naïve".
In a new interview from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), released today (and part of which is on the video, below), Miers said that chefs and restaurants had a key responsibility to promote the use of sustainable choices, because their influence would then trickle down to people's homes as well.
Miers said: "Any business these days has to have the environment as part of its consideration and it seems both naive and short-sighted not to include sustainability in the business model."
She highlighted the influence that businesses could have, saying: "Chefs and restaurants have a massive impact on what the consumer eats. What we put on our menus informs what people want to eat, and if we cook with only sustainable choices, then people will want to make those choices at home too."
Commenting on Wahaca's influence, she said: "We serve thousands of customers every week. Even if a small proportion of those customers notice the MSC logo on our menus and take note, and start making better choices at home, then we've made an impact…We prove it's possible to be a growing company with a successful business model and still respect the environment."
Setting the bar high within restaurant groups would play a role in setting up sustainable practices and improve the state of the world's oceans, she added. She also explained that customers respond well to MSC-labelled products on the menu, and perceive the brand in a more positive light as a result.
She said: "I think that our customers know that at Wahaca, we really care about the food that we put on our menus, and makes them like our brand better."
The new video and interview also celebrates Wahaca's win of the 2014 MSC Best Restaurant Menu of the Year, in June, alongside other winners such as Raymond Blanc from Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons (MSC Chef of the Year) and the University of Greenwich (MSC University of the Year).
Miers said that winning the award was "hugely exciting" and "recognises the hard work and care that we've taken in what fish to put on our menus". She added: "As a mother, I want my children to grow up eating seafood, and I want their children to be able to eat it too. It would be a very sad thing if we decimated our fish stocks for short-term profit."
All 16 Wahaca sites use sustainable MSC-approved fish and seafood, in dishes such as herring with sour cream and chives; haddock with a melting onion, pepper, lime and pumpkin seed sauce; fish tacos with cod, shredded slaw, and chipotle mayo; and a prawn and scallop ceviche tostada.
The MSC works to encourage sustainable fishing practices, and promotes the global use of the blue "eco-label" on menus, via caterers, and on product packaging. It seeks to make fishing and seafood sourcing as transparent and sustainable as possible, and only awards certification to sources proven as sustainable from fish to fork.
There are 12 MSC-certified species currently available in the UK, including crab, cod, haddock and herring; and over 50 MSC-certified UK suppliers. According to the MSC, it costs £350 to get a restaurant MSC-certified.
Co-founded with Miers' business partner Mark Selby in 2007, Wahaca now has locations across London and beyond, including Brixton, Canary Wharf, Wimbledon, Soho, and Covent Garden, plus a site in Cardiff and Bluewater, and a Wahaca-branded Mexican Street Kitchen van near London's Southbank.
Miers and Selby have also launched a Mexican-US-themed dining site called DF/Mexico at the Old Truman Brewery in East London, which opened in July this year.