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August 20, 2014

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Border Grill chef Mary Sue Milliken: Let’s talk trash — trash fish, that is

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Mary Sue Milliken, Mike Minor and Susan Feniger of Border Grill at Mandalay Bay.

2012 Vegas Uncork'd: Border Grill, Michael Mina, Jose Andres

Day 2 of 2012 Vegas Uncork'd by Bon Appetit with Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken and Adam Rapoport at Border Grill, Michael Mina at Stripsteak and Jose Andres at Jaleo on Friday, May 11, 2012.
Launch slideshow »

Susan Feniger's Viewing Party at Border Grill

A sampler by chef Susan Feniger. Launch slideshow »

Editor’s Note: While Robin Leach takes his traditional summer vacation under the Tuscan sun — and along the Amalfi Coast, as well, this year — in Italy, many of our Strip personalities have stepped forward in his absence to pen their own words of wisdom. We continue today with Mary Sue Milliken, owner and co-chef of Border Grill Las Vegas at Mandalay Bay.

More than a decade ago, we became aware of the state of the world’s seafood supplies through a conference pairing chefs and marine biologists at Monterey Bay Aquarium. After learning that more than 70 percent of all seafood consumed in the U.S. is eaten in restaurants, we immediately joined the sustainable seafood movement here at Border Grill Las Vegas in Mandalay Bay.

As chefs, we take it as an exciting challenge to cook with underused and underappreciated fish and educate our staff and customers about the importance of choosing sustainable seafood. Our regular customers “trust the chef” and are willing to try things they might not normally order.

For example, a trash fish once foreign to many West Coasters is now one of my favorite dishes: the Alaskan black cod Veracruzano. Porgy, Pacific sardines, sea bream and Pollock are all species that are not only great to cook with but when served in our kitchens and homes also can help ease the pressure of producing the uber popular salmon, tuna and swordfish for Earth’s growing population.

According to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, scientists estimate that we have removed as much as 90 percent of the large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish and cod from the world’s oceans. In 2003, Pew Oceans Commission warned that the world’s oceans are in a state of “silent collapse,” threatening our food supply, marine economies, recreation and the natural legacy we leave our children.

Next Monday, I am thrilled to be partnering with fabulous chefs and mixologists to create a Chefs Collaborative Trash Dinner here at Border Grill that celebrates seafood most people have never tried and sometimes gets discarded or used for fertilizer. Together with chefs Susan Feniger and Mike Minor of Border Grill, Michael Leviton of Lumiere and Area Four restaurants in Boston, Rick Moonen of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay and Jet Tila of Kuma Snow Cream in Chinatown, we’ll cook a multi-course dinner featuring amazingly delicious seafood that deserves more attention.

At the dinner, we will taste six to eight interesting and delicious seafood dishes and share amazing trash fish stories. The idea is not to over-promote any one species of fish. We don’t want to do what chefs did to Chilean sea bass years ago; when this then little-known fish became so popular, we nearly ate it to extinction. Fortunately, good management has brought it back. Our hope is to increase awareness and help diners fall in love with some alternative, very plentiful and sustainable seafood.

If you care about the variety of seafood available to your grandkids or godchildren (and who doesn’t?), now is the time to get involved. Join us at Border Grill to celebrate the ocean’s underdogs while sampling handcrafted cocktails and special wines. And you’ll learn the important role each of us plays in promoting sustainable seafood and supporting local fishing communities.

It’s going to be a blast; see you there!

For Chefs Collaborative Trash Dinner details and tickets, go to chefscollaborative.org/events.

Check out our other guest columns today from entertainment producer Andy Walmsley (“Showbiz Roast” at the Stratosphere) and Melinda Saxe, “The First Lady of Magic,” and on Wednesday from artist Michael Godard, exhibit mastermind Tom Zaller and cowgirl Trish Lynn.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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