Feast of the Seven Fishes with Jeremy Sewall

Interview and article by CGNE member Maggie Brooks
As the owner of Coolidge Corner restaurant, LiNEaGe, as well as the executive chef for Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar, Chef Jeremy Sewall knows a little something about seafood. For CGNE’s Feast of the Seven Fishes, he’s taking a traditional Italian Christmas Eve celebration and bringing it to New England. I sat down with Jeremy to talk about how he prepares for such an iconic celebration and cooking for a group passionate foodies.

How did you learn about CGNE?

The restaurant’s PR company reached out to me about [CGNE] and I’m looking forward to getting involved. I think it’s a great organization.

Are you preparing for this event differently than you would be for an event of non-food experts?

Not that differently. It’s really fun to be able to get in front a group that’s so passionate about food. I have more freedom to show recipes that are a little more exciting.

You wrote the menu for the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Were you familiar with the feast? How did you approach something so traditional to make it more modern?

It wasn’t something I grew up with so I had to do some research. I spent some time reading recipes to familiarize myself with the meal and where we could take it. The key to the tradition is how regional the food is, so it’s using a modern American flair while staying to true to local food and what the meal is about.

What kind of dishes can we look forward to?

Definitely some oysters. We’re having a raw bar, plus serving fresh ceviche. We’re giving a nod to the traditional with a lobster casserole. Basically it’ll be local fish and seafood prepared our way.

You’re also doing a presentation. Is it intimidating to cook in front of food industry folks?

Not at all. It makes it more fun for me to cook for people who love food.

What are some of the most common seafood handling mistakes that you’ve come across?

Probably not storing seafood correctly. Like covering shellfish. Those guys are alive so covering them just kills them. Also buying quality. Don’t go looking for a bargain when buying seafood or meat.

What are your favorite holiday seafood dishes?

I’m from southern Maine and my family have been lobstermen for years, so lobsters are always a huge part of our holiday. I still get all my lobster from my brother. Littlenecks are a must for me. My father-in-law is a scallop fanatic so we have to have those too.

Are there any holiday menu specials we should be looking forward to at your restaurants?

Eastern Standard does an amazing prix fixe menu. We’ve worked for several years to make this good. It’s all of our classics plus a roasted turkey entrée. LiNEaGe is closed for Thanksgiving, but we do have a meal-to-go option that’ll be really great.

The Guild is partnered with Future Chefs, a program is dedicated to giving opportunities to aspiring young chefs.  Any words of wisdom?

Wow, lots. Stick with it. This is challenging, demanding, and at times, frustrating business to be in. Having pride and humility in your work will take you far. It’s a craft to be constantly worked at your entire career, you’re never too good to [keep] learning.

On November 7th from 6:30 – 9:30 PM, CGNE is teaming up with Island Creek Oyster Bar and Hotel Commonwealth for a Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian holiday. Island Creek Oyster Bar will give their take on the Italian feast with a tidal wave of seafood. Come taste an array of seafood dishes, enjoy delicious wine pairings from Lower Falls Wine Company, try your hand at shucking oysters, and meet Chef Jeremy Sewall in person as he demonstrates lobster stew and seared scallop recipes. Cost for the evening is $55 for members and $70 for non-members and tastings of all dishes, wine, and hors d’oeuvres are included. Click here to register!

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