If you can’t beat ’em, eat ’em.
That was the theme of ProFish’s Annual Invasive Species Benefit Dinner at Tony & Joe’s Seafood Place at Washington Harbour Jan. 28. Top on the list: the snakehead, an invasive species native to China and Korea that found its way into the Chesapeake Bay and is one ugly, fierce-looking fish. ProFish, a seafood provider, figures to make the snakehead more marketable, thus leading to its decline in the bay.
Washington Redskins legendary running back John Riggins was the benefit headliner. The NFL Hall of Famer has a show on the Sportsman Channel, “Riggo on the Range,” where he hunts for the prey which he later shows how to cook in his kitchen.
Dining with Riggo was a who’s who of chefs, fishery operators, watermen, outdoorsmen, community leaders and those who wanted to have a unique five-course dinner and donate their $125 meal ticket money to the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a Maryland non-profit that is bringing more oysters back to the Chesapeake Bay, and D.C.’s Miriam’s Kitchen, committed to ending chronic homelessness.
Besides the surprising tasty snakehead — think grouper, a firm, white fish — was mackerel, rockfish and pork. Hors d’oeuvre included oysters, crab cakes, yellow perch and “local invasive blue catfish.”
The guys in the kitchen included Scott Drewno from the Source, Chad Wells of the Rockfish, Phillipe Reininger from J&G Steakhouse, Dennis Marron of Poste Moderne Brasserie — and, of course, David Stein, executive chef at Tony and Joe’s Seafood Place.
ProFish’s director of sustainable efforts John Rorapaugh issued this mission statement on the evening’s menu: “This issue of the flip side to the sustainable coin. Snakeheads need to be eradicated. Not controlled, not managed, eradicated!” While auctioning off two of his cooking aprons from his show, Riggins — who has a very good auctioneer’s pace — said snakeheads “need a makeover.” Perhaps even a name change, he said. The benefit raised at least $15,000.