By Linnaea Weld and Liza Dadiomov
Waterbar, located on the San Francisco waterfront, offers breathtaking views of the Bay, high-quality, delectable seafood, a full bar, and an exemplary sustainability ethic. Eric Hyman is the Purchasing Manager and Beekeeper of this not-to-be-missed restaurant. Communications Intern Linnaea Weld and Education Coordinator Liza Dadiomov had the pleasure of sitting down with Eric to learn about Waterbar’s history, purchasing philosophy, and the upcoming Oysterfest.
Linnaea Weld: What’s the story behind Waterbar?
Eric Hyman: Waterbar’s been open seven and a half years. Our executive chef Chef Parke and I worked with a couple other people at Farallon, and we left eight years ago to open up Waterbar. We wanted to have seafood that’s simple. We buy super fresh fish and the best produce; you don’t have to do much to make it delicious.
LW: What does sustainable seafood mean here?
EH: Sustainable, in terms of seafood, is really difficult. You have a lot of different battles that you are trying to fight that all fall under that umbrella of sustainability. First there’s population. Then you have environmental issues. Certain methods and certain species cause by-catch. Unlike a lot of other places, there are no big fish markets in San Francisco, and there are stricter regulations here, so often we don’t have a lot of local seafood here. So if your idea of sustainability goes hand in hand with eating local, oftentimes seafood doesn’t make it into that equation. We decided a long time ago we would support small fishing communities that are fishing the right way, all around the country. Another focus is oysters. Oysters are less impactful than any other source of protein, or agriculture. Farming takes its toll on the land–you have to rotate crops, and you add lots of fertilizers and inputs. Oysters have zero inputs. You put the oysters in the water and they find their own food. And as we know, they clean the water. The only water they drink we can’t drink or irrigate our crops with, so oysters are as good as they get. Pound per pound of protein, we buy and sell more oysters here than any fish.
LW: Can you talk about Oysterfest?
EH: Oysterfest is August 30th. We try to keep our festival a little smaller, so we cap it off at 150 people. It’s right here. We usually have a band, we have contests. It’s just a good fun day. We have a lot of restaurants who are friends of ours that all do oyster-centric food. It’s the perfect size- it fills the courtyard, so it feels like a party, but it’s not thousands of people, so it doesn’t feel out of control and ridiculous. We just have a good time.
LW: What is the most important thing you’ve learned working at Waterbar?
EH: Something that’s been solidified is the idea that we have finite resources, and I’ve learned how that idea relates to scale. I have a big backyard at my house, so I decided to grow a lot of the vegetables for Waterbar. I grew rows and rows of beets, and it was finally time to harvest them, and I put them in this box. And my whole backyard yielded maybe one fifth of what we buy in a day here, so it suddenly hit me the idea of farm–why we need massive pieces of land to grow massive quantities. And at Waterbar, we use a lot of food, but we’re tiny compared to San Francisco, which is tiny compared to the US. I have a new appreciation for scale.
LW: Thank you Eric and the entire Waterbar team for all you do! We greatly appreciate your promotion of sustainable harvesting, and your financial support to The Watershed Project for a second summer in a row!
Through the Oyster Give Back program, Waterbar donates 5 cents to The Watershed Project’s oyster restoration and education efforts for each oyster purchased this summer. Visit this great restaurant and enjoy all it has to offer while supporting our mission!