STEVE BLACK — FISHING PASSION INSPIRES CULINARY CREATIONS
“You don’t always know what you’re going to learn, or what
you’re going to think about,” he says. “When I started doing the
shark thing, part of it was trying to keep a job, quite frankly. I wasn’t
a conservationist, I didn’t say ‘I’m going to go out there and do this.’
I love the ocean, because the ocean has given me everything. It’s my
time to give back.”
McBride and the rest of the crew, part mariners, part fishermen,
part researchers, and part television stars, travel the world to capture
and tag great white sharks. They’ll be the first to tell you that it isn’t
a bad gig. They have been from Cape Town to California to (most
recently) Cape Cod where I caught up with them. Their New England
mission isn’t being televised, but they had a cameraman aboard, to
film for their blog, and the visit, coming at a time when sharks were
resurgent in the land of “Jaws”, got its share of press.
Outside on the deck, McBride pointed out different parts of the
shark corral and showed off a specially designed shark hook they’ve
improved with a butter knife and a Styrofoam float. He says again
that he isn’t showing off, and then he tells a story to illustrate how
safe it is to swim with the sharks. “You can’t buy a shark attack,” he
says. “I’ve swum in the middle of shark schools, probably six or 800
sharks in a feeding frenzy, where all you see is fins, tails, and teeth. As
a point, to show people they were going to [only] eat the bait, I swim
up, with my arms and legs out and just shut my eyes for a minute,
with the sharks slamming into me. When I opened up my eyes, they
were gone.” — CHRIS LANDERS
“WHEN I CAUGHT MY FIRST FISH, I was hooked myself,” says Steve Black, executive chef of the Sheraton Hotel and Marina in San Diego, California. “I was always an
outdoor kid, but I was a hunter and an archer and never got to do
much fishing growing up in inland New Jersey. Then, when I was
cooking at the Sheraton in Boston in the 1980s, I heard a couple
of guys talking about bluefish and joined them on a rental boat
for a day of fishing. I loved it.” It wasn’t long before Black bought
his first boat, a 17-foot Boston Whaler centerconsole. “It really
pounded, but I was in my 20s and could take it,” he laughs. “The
East Coast is great for quick trips, and you can get to good fishing
in just a couple of miles.”
Black graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode
Island and developed his culinary skills before heading, in 1990,
to Strasbourg, France, where he worked with his French father-in-
law alongside several five-star Michelin chefs. “I thought I knew
how to cook,” he says. “But everything over there tasted amazing.
You really work around the seasons and what’s fresh.” Armed with
that insight, he returned to the U.S. in 1992, picked up his Boston
Whaler from his parents’ house, and towed it cross-country to San
Diego where he’s been for the past 20 years. He’s since upgraded to
a 25-foot Whaler named Sweet Revenge, partly because of the model
name, and partly because he considers it a “sweet boat.” He keeps
it at the marina behind the hotel and goes out whenever he can.
For another true story of how a childhood fishing passion evolved into a
full-time career, see page 26.
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