Cindy Pawlcyn's love for fish is about more than creating and enjoying delicious food. It's also a way of reconnecting to her family, her past, and her calling. The celebrated California chef grew up in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes. "I was like an ice fishergirl," Pawlcyn says, recalling her early days tagging along on fishing runs with her dad and Uncle Pete. "We'd go out on the lakes and catch sunfish and bluegills. We even caught fish for Christmas Eve dinner."
For the past three decades, the Pacific Ocean has served as her backdrop and inspiration. A culinary partner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Pawlcyn runs an on-site eatery, Cindy's Waterfront. "Since I was little, I thought I'd have a restaurant on the water, and here I am sitting in the dining room looking out over the ocean," she says.
Considering her history, it's not surprising that Pawlcyn is downright exuberant when it comes to the idea of adding more fish to Americans' plates. She offers a multitude of mouthwatering descriptions of her favorite fish-centric meals: coho salmon with shaved asparagus and ginger; a fish tostada with fresh tomatillo salsa, slaw, and crème fraîche; smoky barbecued fish with marinated vegetables. "Fish is such a flavorful, versatile ingredient," she says.