Chat with a chef: Jason Staudt of Stokehouse Restaurant on using the whole tuna

Jason Staudt of Stokehouse Restaurant. Photo by Arianna Leggiero.

Jason Staudt is the Executive Chef of Stokehouse Restaurant and Stokehouse Pasta & Bar in St Kilda, Melbourne. He’s an award-winning chef that’s passionate about using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. We caught up with Jason to discuss why sustainably sourced tuna matters, learn his tips for buying fresh tuna, and find out what he served Barack and Michelle Obama when they visited Stokehouse Restaurant.

Why and how did you become a chef?  

I originally started cooking because I wanted to be a pro snowboarder and working nights worked best with that lifestyle. Sadly, the dream ended after multiple injuries, but I always loved the team environment having grown up in a family where food was very important; cooking was an easy pick straight out of high school. It’s high pace and high adrenaline, which I love. I’ve been a chef for 22 years.

Jason Staudt of Stokehouse Restaurant. Photo by Arianna Leggiero.

Tell us about your passion for using local, sustainably sourced seafood.

The importance of using sustainably sourced food in general (not only seafood) is very near and close to my heart.

I started as an apprentice chef at a great restaurant in Calgary, Canada, called River Café where I became the Garden Chef, going out to the farms weekly and sourcing ingredients. We had multiple local gardens growing for the restaurant well before “local produce” and “farm to table” food was a trend.

I also spent some time on boats in Northern B.C and Alaska where the Native Americans told stories of the past, and even in their lives, where fish depletion and apex predators were dropping rapidly. This obviously goes full circle—how humans eat and reduce waste.

How does Stokehouse sustainably source and use seafood?

At Stokehouse, we always aim to use the whole fish to eliminate waste where we can. For example, we use the frames (after drying them out) and serve canapés on them.

We recently partnered with Seafood Positive to introduce the One Fish Two Fish program to our restaurants, where for every fish we remove from the ocean we replace by helping to create more marine habitats. It’s a world first and we are so proud to work with the team at Seafood Positive on this important initiative.

Yellowfin tuna belly and melon bites. Photo by Arianna Leggiero.

What is a standout dish you have created with tuna or swordfish?

A standout would be the “watermelon & tuna belly bite”, which is belly and bone scrapings of the tuna—a single bite number on our snack menu. We take the frames and heads that normally go in the bin, scrape those and use them for the bite. The dish is served with a brown butter emulsion / mayo and topped with watermelon rind that we get from the market offcuts and then pickle and dice. It’s an absolute crowd favourite at the restaurant, and it’s a bonus that it’s one of our most sustainable dishes!

Barack and Michelle Obama dined at Stokehouse Restaurant in March 2023. Did you serve them tuna?

I did serve them tuna and told them the story of our sustainability efforts, particularly the tuna bite. I think they loved it!

Barack and Michelle Obama dined at Stokehouse Restaurant in March 2023.

What are your tips for consumers wishing to buy or cook more fresh tuna or swordfish?

  • Fish can be sustainable, so choose your species well.
  • Know where your fish comes from and don’t be afraid to ask all the questions. There are so many good fisheries in Australia catching seasonally but you must ask and put pressure on your fish mongers.
  • Find a trusted fish monger. In Melbourne we are very lucky to have so many markets!
  • Ideally avoid buying in vacuum pack, as you never really know it’s history.
  • An easy trick to store tuna and swordfish is in an airtight container wrapped in paper towel or towel, as long as you change the wrapping daily. It can keep for four to five days—or even more!

Yellowfin tuna, aged tomato dressing, horseradish and eggplant. Photo by Arianna Leggiero.

What is your favourite swordfish or tuna dish to eat or create?

On our current menu we have a tuna dish where it is cut thick and diced to show the gorgeous texture of the tuna. It is served over confit eggplant from Ramarro Farms, sorrel and an aged tuna dressing we made last year with over ripe tomatoes from our farms. It’s our take on a salty/umami soy, but without soy. We love it as much as our guests do.

Cook like a chef: Try Jason's recipe for tuna niçoise salad

Stay informed

Industry news delivered to your inbox every 1-2 weeks

Subscribe to other updates:
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.