CATCH 22- HOOK TO PLATE
Author: Rebecca Edwards | Photographer: Photography by Anne
What simple pleasures bring you happiness? Some say good friends. Others say being out in nature or enjoying tasty food or wine. Chef Bryan Bobinchuck of Catch 22 restaurant and Captain Eric Moore of Moneric Fishing Charters, LLC say all the above.
“Being able to bring food from hook to plate is a win-win all the way around,” Bobinchuck said. “I get to fish with Capt. Eric, who I’ve fished with since Catch 22 opened 13 years ago, I’m outside enjoying the Lowcountry, and I can serve my patrons the freshest, best possible food.”
Bobinchuck and Moore are both sitting on the dock of North End Charter fleet. Bobinchuck wears a dark blue chef jacket. Moore wears a light blue Columbia PFG shirt. You can hear the sound of other local captains returning from a long day of fishing, water lapping against wooden posts, and the occasional sea gull. You smell the outgoing tide as it reveals oyster beds and the aroma of a recently lit grill. And you think, “These guys have it right.”
“The enjoyment derived from simple pleasures like good friendships and immersing oneself in beauty and nature infuses into the cooking process, ultimately creating richer, more flavorful dishes, “Bobinchuck explained. “Plus, do you want flounder or (pointing to Moore) fresh flounder from him?” he joked.
Moore laughs. “If you think about it, this really is a special dish,” he said, referring to the strict rules regulating local fishermen (but not long liners).
“The rules keep getting narrower and narrower. Now, we are limited to certain times, whereas before it used to be year-round and then only seasonally,” Bobinchuck explained.
Both Chef Bobinchuck and Moore (who has been chartering for over 15 years) have a deep appreciation for the area and incorporate their commitment to the environment in their respective professions. For example, Bobinchuck has been looking to “off species” such as sheepshead and red porgy as delicious alternatives to the typical menu fare.
“There are not only a lot of fish in the sea, but a lot of great tasting fish,” Bobinchuck said. “I’m a firm believer in not poaching too much from one pool.” He also points out that many of the mainstay fish such as cobia have very predictable preparations, whereas the more unique catches enable him to be creative. Bobinchuck is also looking at invasive species like the lionfish and experimenting with innovative cooking techniques and flavor combinations.
“Lionfish are challenging several fish populations like grouper and sea bass. You can’t over-fish them, and honestly by minimizing them, you do a great service to the fishing industry and our aquatic ecosystems,” said Bobinchuck, who admits he likes the challenge of preparing this fish. “The spine of the lionfish is poisonous, so I have to be careful removing it. Once that’s done, you have a really light, white flakey fish. It really has a tremendous flavor.”
Listening to Bobinchuck talk about hook-to-plate cooking, you realize he is passionate and talented. Today he is preparing pecan-dusted flounder over grilled smoked Gouda polenta, and bacon braised rainbow chard in a bourbon shallot butter.
“I had what my wife Daisy calls busy brain. I dreamt about this dish, woke up and wrote it down in the middle of the night and knew it would be awesome,” Bobinchuck said. “This is a very southern inspired dish with pecans and bourbon, but I love to take ingredients and flip the script and do something unexpected. For example, using polenta instead of grits, or rainbow chard instead of collard greens, which is much more fibrous and slower to cook.”
Everyone salivates, including children playing on the dock, folks sightseeing and the last of the boat captains, as Bobinchuck describes his food. “That’s the reason why I run the boat and he runs the kitchen,” Moore said.
Bobinchuck’s résumé comes with a heavy pour of experience. Since his first job dishwashing at the age of 14, he has spent more years of his life in the kitchen than out of it. And even when he takes off his chef coat, he still wears his passion for the culinary arts.
“Everywhere I go, I try to explore ways I can bring fresh, local, sustainable ingredients into my kitchen,” Bobinchuck said. “I can’t always get on the boat with Capt. Eric, so Catch 22 only uses select resources. I have a great relationship with my purveyors, and they know I fillet my own fish to preserve the freshness. I also shop around for local pork, poultry and produce. This is important to me, my restaurant and my family.”
Having grown up on Hilton Head Island, Bobinchuck also knows several other chefs at locally owned restaurants. If he cannot use all the fish off Moore’s boat, he phones these chefs and shares the wealth.
“It really comes down to not letting anything go to waste,” Moore said.
Sampling Bobinchuck’s flounder special, you also become a member of the waste not want not club. Besides the fact that this dish is a combination of culinary and conservation mastery, it is also a reminder to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.
Catch 22 is located at 37 New Orleans Rd., New Orleans Plaza on Hilton Head Island. For more information, visit catch22hhi.com or call (843) 785-6261. For charter fishing with Captain Eric Moore, visit moneric.com or call (843) 816-0215.