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Harney Sushi's Robert Ruiz on Sustainable Seafood & "Paying the Neighborhood"

Chef Robert Ruiz of Harney Sushi, courtesy photo

Oceanside native Robert Ruiz has served as the Executive Sushi Chef at Harney Sushi's Oceanside location for the past four years. Ruiz has worked with Hawaii's Chef Alan Wong, and locally at Sushi on the Rock; in 2010, he earned the "Chef of the Fest" title for Harney Sushi at the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival.

What's your favorite thing on your menu right now?
The most exciting thing about our menu right now has two parts, the first is that we continue to set the bar for sourcing the ultimate in sustainable sushi. We are pressing harder than ever to define sustainability, and demand honesty and traceability in all the products we source. The second, and the part that is brand new for 2013, is our hot side menu. Braised Short Ribs with Plum Wine Demi, and creamed Polenta, Steamed Mussels with Kim-chi infused Miso Broth, Steamed Buns stuffed with BBQ braised pork and pickled seasonal veggies.

Where you do like to eat when you're not working?
The Flying Pig Pub + Kitchen in Oceanside is a must: great pork of course, but house made pastas and an awesome 10oz ribeye. Chef Matt Gordon's Solace and the Moonlight Lounge is another great spot. A glass of wine and a cheese plate at sunset is how I spoiled myself last time I was there.

Anything that you're "over", in terms of played-out restaurant and food trends or ingredients?
Trends and having the "it" ingredient of the moment are commonplace in a world that's as competitive as the restaurant business. They are a necessary evil that contributes to the evolution of a food scene. I'm thankful for them, it makes it easy to pick out the people who are asleep at the wheel.

Do you have a wish or request for the San Diego food scene or local diners?
I love San Diego, I was born and raised here. I learned here at a young age, on or off the clock, we all need to "Pay the Neighborhood". People in the food scene, especially diners, need to ask questions, work together and develop a sense of community. The city wins when we have chefs pushing limits and challenging the status quo. The food scene wins when we have diners that are conscious of what they're putting in their bodies, and where they are putting their dollars.

What makes cooking in San Diego different than other cities you've worked in?
The first thing about San Diego that everyone will agree with is the quality of the produce here. We have the richest soil, and the widest variety of supreme quality produce on the planet. It's a luxury many take for granted. For me, as a sushi chef focusing on sustainability, it is a dream come true. NOAA has its Center for Marine Biodiversity here, and their Southwest Fisheries Science Center; there's the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Hubbs Sea World Fish Hatchery. The most powerful and accurate data on the state of our oceans is generated right here in San Diego; it's like being on the front lines of a battle for our oceans' future.
· Harney Sushi [Official Site]
· All Industry Dish Interviews on Eater San Diego [~ESD~]