James Beard Smart Catch Leader

James Beard Smart Catch Leader

Since our opening in 2017, Lionfish has been committed to bringing fresh, sustainable, and delicious seafood to the Gaslamp Quarter. Thanks to Chef JoJo Ruiz’s innovative and inventive style, our constantly evolving menu is full of delicious upscale dishes that use only the freshest seasonal ingredients. Now, we’re delighted to share that Lionfish has been recognized as a 2019 James Beard Foundation Smart Catch Leader.

About the James Beard Foundation Smart Catch Program

The James Beard Foundation promotes “good food for good,” with a mission to “celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.”  The Foundation has created numerous awards, scholarships, hands-on learning opportunities, and industry programs in pursuit of that mission.

Smart Catch is one such program. Created by chefs for chefs, this program works to increase the sustainability of the seafood supply chain, promoting stable fishing stocks and sustainably farmed seafood. Through the program, chefs receive training and support that allows them to serve seafood that has been environmentally-responsibly sourced. The Smart Catch Leader designation makes it easy for consumers to identify – and then support – restaurants that have taken this extra step in their dedication to serving only environmentally sustainable seafood.

It isn’t easy for restaurants to receive this designation. Restaurants must complete at least three assessments during the calendar year, and score at least 80% on back-to-back assessments. Smart Catch Leader restaurants cannot serve any species that are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Additionally, the restaurant must have two or less of these “red” items on their menu.

Chef JoJo Ruiz’s Dedication to Sustainability

Chef JoJo Ruiz serves as executive chef and partner at Lionfish, and his dedication to sustainably sourced foods has been part of the driving force behind Lionfish’s Smart Catch achievement. Having grown up in San Diego, oceans and seafood have always been a major part of Ruiz’s life. Ruiz’s commitment to sustainable sourcing is reflected in every dish on our menu.

Over time, Ruiz developed a network of fishermen and produce growers that he calls on to keep Lionfish supplied with the freshest seasonal ingredients. Not only does this ensure that seafood will be available for generations to come, but these ingredients allow us to prepare premium, delicious dishes.

What The James Beard Foundation Smart Catch Leader Means to You

As one of just three restaurants in San Diego to receive this special designation, Lionfish is one of the few places where you can dine knowing that your meal has been responsibly sourced. You can feel good about your decision to dine at Lionfish, knowing that we’re doing right by the oceans that supply us with these foods.

Our transparent sourcing is right on our menu. Choose East Coast, West Coast, or Baja oysters. Our Coal Grilled Local Opah is, as you guessed, locally sourced, and our Whole 2 Pound San Diego Spiny Lobster is from San Diego.

Because we use seasonal ingredients, our menu is always evolving. That means that you’re getting the freshest ingredients available, and we’re not using excess fuels shipping in out-of-season ingredients. It also means that Chef JoJo Ruiz gets to put his creativity to work in crafting innovative dishes all year round, and no two visits to Lionfish will be the same. For instance, we introduced nearly a dozen special dishes just for fall. What a perfect reason to come back again and again!

Did we mention that we’re also an Ocean Friendly Restaurant (as designated by the Surfrider Foundation)? This Ocean Friendly Restaurant title means that we:

  • Don’t use Styrofoam
  • Follow proper recycling practices
  • Offer only reusable tableware for onsite dining
  • Don’t provide plastic bags for takeout or to-go orders
  • Only provide straws upon request

But our dedication to ocean preservation and sustainability doesn’t end there. In July of 2018, we partnered with the Surfrider Foundation of San Diego to do our part to help oceans stay clean and healthy. We also donated $25,000 to the cause and continue to donate a portion of our proceeds to the Surfrider Foundation.

It’s our job to help keep our oceans and beaches clean and safe for ourselves and for our future generations. We’re thrilled to celebrate our James Beard Smart Catch Leader designation, and hope that you’ll come enjoy a sustainably sourced delicious meal at Lionfish.