With over 25 years of experience in the culinary space, Jason McLeod has traveled the world to train with several of the most prestigious chefs in the industry, including culinary icons Raymond Blanc and Marco Pierre White. As executive chef and partner of Ironside Fish & Oyster, Jason is not only cultivating community at his Little Italy neighborhood spot but he is also leading the charge in the San Diego sustainable seafood movement. Read on to learn more about Jason’s commitment to local fishermen, what his favorite meal is and how he’s trying to eliminate plastic from his kitchen.
Tell us about your commitment to sustainable sourcing seafood?
Jason McLeod: We are not perfect but our goal is to strive to be better every day. We educate ourselves on better ways to be more responsible in how we conduct our business and where we purchase our product from. Our proudest achievement at Ironside is our continued relationship with the San Diego Fleet of fisherman who we work very closely with and who we now call family. Our San Diego Caught fisherman have become the heart and soul of Ironside Fish and Oyster.
Why did you decide to open a restaurant in San Diego?
JM: I had lived in San Diego for 2 years before moving to Chicago, after a few years living in Chicago my wife and I were ready to move. We talked about where we’d like to live and open a restaurant, San Diego kept popping to the top of our list. We believed there were a lot of opportunities to do great things in San Diego and believed in the future of the restaurant community. We wanted to set down roots somewhere and be apart of something special, we knew we could call San Diego home.
What do you think are some important skills for humans on planet Earth?
JM: To me its simple, if everyone CARED a little more about what we did every day, the impact would be so BIG.
What does community mean to you?
JM: Community to me is a group of individuals coming together in support of something bigger when we come together as a community the strength of togetherness outweighs any obstacle.
Where’s your oasis? What’s your Eden? Where do you go to recharge?
JM: My home, we purchased our 1st home 6 years ago and we adopted a dog about 8 months after buying our home. The first thing we did was invest in building a beautiful backyard with a built-in kitchen to me, this is a small piece of heaven. I love cooking at home with my wife and dog Porter.
What’s your favorite meal to eat? To make?
JM: My favorite meal to eat is the one prepared by someone else 😉 people always get nervous to cook for me, and to be honest I love noting more than being a guest at someones home when they cook, it’s really is a beautiful thing to watch a non “chef” create something they are passionate about. My favorite meal to cook is hard to answer but I love making simple, easy dishes. It might sound cliche but, purchasing whatever is freshest at the market along with an amazing piece of San Diego caught fish and you have the perfect meal.
What does sustainability mean to you?
JM: This is the hardest question to answer, I am often asked if Ironside is a “sustainable” restaurant. We have had many conversations with our staff regarding sustainability and what it means and our response is: we are a responsible restaurant and we are constantly looking for better ways to operate and become more responsible to the sustainability movement. I think most individuals become overwhelmed with trying to be sustainable, I think if we changed the narrative to “be responsible” we would have an easier time getting the message to stick. Imagine what an impact we would have if everyone was a little more “responsible” to begin with.
What makes you feel most hopeful about our Planet Earth?
JM: The Ecology Center (Thanks, Jason!)
What are simple solutions you implement in your daily life that do a whole lot’a good?
JM: I ask myself everyday, “how can I do better today”? Sometimes the answers are more complicated and lead to a “bigger picture”, but it helps me put the plans in place to do more good. One of my biggest challenges is the plastic wrap we use in the kitchen, it’s something I struggle with daily as it is such a big part of kitchen life. I have challenged my kitchen leaders to look for alternatives and put an August 1st deadline to see if we can eliminate plastic wrap from our kitchen. I also tell individuals to start small and work your way up, again I think we need to make sure that starting small is better than not starting at all.
How do you inspire our future generations?
JM: Its all about education and understanding.