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A Frank Discussion: Interview with Chef Frank Pabst

Blue Water Cafe’s executive chef, Frank Pabst, is dedicated to the ocean’s unsung heroes

The local, sustainable food movement has come of age, but it wasn’t always thus. Few have been as instrumental in its success as Frank Pabst


Fourteen years ago, the Blue Water Cafe executive chef conceived and launched Unsung Heroes, an annual salute to unusual sea creatures such as sea cucumber, herring, whelks and limpets. Even though the festival runs only through February, creations such as octopus Bolognese and sea urchin hot dogs now pop up as specials on the menu year-round.

Other popular tastes? How about crayfish “cappuccino” or smelt tacos? They all flow from the same idea: “to combine new ingredients with the familiar, to get people to try them out,” says Pabst. Young chefs who pass through his kitchen also learn to embrace the more curious critters, although it’s a love affair that may not last when they leave. “It’s tough. These items are not really money-makers. People tend not to be as playful as we are,” he says with a chuckle. That said, Pabst has helped launch a new generation of chefs far more sustainably aware than in the past.

As for those starting out, “Don’t try to climb the ladder too fast,” he warns. “Lots of young chefs want to become a sous chef after just a couple of years but don’t have the knowledge. It took me years before I found I had a solid background to do anything. This business takes long hours, hard work, plus lots of burns and bruises to feel confident.” He adds, “But it’s very rewarding, for sure. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!”

For more by Tim Pawsey, visit hiredbelly.com

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