Florida on a Tankful: The Beach House serves seafood, the environment

By Scott Fais , Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 12, 2017, 11:38 PM EDT

From inside a “retro-chic” dining room sitting yards away from the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Ed Chiles offers a vision for the future: offer more environmentally sustainable seafood.

"Florida has 287,000 acres of shellfish-approved waters. Less than 25,000 acres are leased,” Ed shares while seated in front of a wall of wine bottles stored horizontally.

The revelation from the owner of the Beach House restaurant is eye-opening, considering his family history.

"My dad had done the first four Red Lobsters,” Ed said, recalling how his father helped build the initial Red Lobster restaurants.  

If the last name Chiles sounds familiar, it has quite the history in Florida.

"That's what allowed him to be in politics,” Ed said of his father’s most memorable profession.

Ed's father, Lawton, served Florida as senator and a legendary governor.

"It has a nice crunch to it,” Ed says in the kitchen while cutting an ear of corn grown in Florida.  He’s comfortable here among the oven and grill.

"I was a pots and pans washer at the ATO house, at the University of Florida, but I didn't know I was doing a restaurant internship at the time,” Ed remembers.  “I was just trying to get some beer money."

Ed’s Beach House in Bradenton Beach recently completed a multi-year makeover that features grand vistas of its number one asset: the view.

"I've been coming here since before I can remember, to what turned out to be the greatest spot in the world, you know?” Ed said, adding that when he was a teen, Bradenton Beach was devoid of activity or action. Exciting Ed today, what he calls "Food Tourism."

"Don't truck stuff all the way across the country,” he says of the Buy Local movement aimed at reducing what Ed calls the “whole carbon footprint."

While the Beach House is known for locally caught seafood, Ed says the rest of the nation is not.

"Ninety-two percent of the seafood, Scott, that we eat in the United States of America is imported,” Ed said.

"We make an impact on the community and our goal is to mitigate that,” said Robert Baugh, the chief operating officer for Beach House, MarVista and the Sandbar.

In order to produce more local oysters and clams, the three diners Ed owns began recycling the shells.

"The idea is when oysters are going through their natural spawn, the larvae are swimming around looking for somewhere to attach. They love the shell," Robert said.

Within time, that shell may be back on the plates here. Also making a difference on the plates here: wild boar.

Some consider the Florida wild boar species to be invasive and destructive. A form of hog, the Beach House serves boar as part of trendy lettuce wraps. The meat has a smooth texture and can be compared to pulled pork.

Also leaving less of a footprint, how The Beach House stopped offering straws to diners for their drinks. Robert says the use of straws has dropped 60 percent since servers stopped dropping straws off with drinks. The straws given out are made from a plant-based material that will disintegrate.

To-go containers follow suit. They are no longer are made from non-biodegradable Styrofoam.

"Eco tourism, food tourism; that is the market that you really want,” Ed said.

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