Scott Fredel on the Best Place to Catch Sailfish

​Scott Fredel, executive chef and owner of Pilar, gave us a rundown on his feelings on sustainable fishing, what you're getting on your plate when you eat at his restaurant, and how expensive it is to commercially fish. Read the first part of the interview for the full story.

New Times: You named this restaurant after Hemingway's boat. If there was a Pilar down the street, is there a second choice you would have used?

Scott Fredel: The name of my boat is Scott Free... I like the name, but sometimes people think it's a Spanish restaurant. I knew I'd be associated no matter what I did with fish, everyone like, because I just love it. It's the same as like, like farm to table is so hot right now. People who fish, chefs who really understand fish, make it better. It's like farmers that know how to treat vegetable, they say you can see it in their food.

How do you feel about sustainable fishing, and do you serve fish that are "in season"?

Absolutely. A hundred percent.

And do you have any strong feelings about the fishing industry?

Yeah, I really feel very strongly about serving local, line-caught fish.

Where do you get your fish from?

All of our fish comes probably from Florida. Right around Florida, unless we get like crab from Maryland, but that's just where you get it from. But if you call a purveyor and ask for lump crab meat, eight out of ten times they're going to send you something from China or Thailand, which is ridiculous. It's not like I'm going to stick just to Florida. If I get Maine lobsters, they're coming from Maine. Or stuff like that. I try to keep everything local. A lot of fish comes from Key West all the way up to the Panhandle, in the Gulf, or Gulf red snapper, I try to buy fish from there, because I know, as a fisherman, that they got hit hard by the oil spill but the fishing is solid right now. The fish are beautiful, but people that are naive to that will think that the fish are tarnished or something. They're not. Gulf fish is pomp, cobia, those true red snappers, they're awesome, they're beautiful. So, I get a lot of stuff from there.

So, you would buy from someone that was like yourself when you were younger or does that not really happen anymore?

Yeah, but you have to keep it legal. That's the problem. It's not worth it. I don't do stuff like that. I buy from some guys with permits, I'll buy from them. They don't even really come around anymore. The cost of fishing is very expensive now. With fuel, it's not like, you're thinking your car. A boat gets a mile to the gallon and gas is 40 percent more expensive at the marina, cause it's on the water, it's like $6.50 a gallon.

That's crazy.

So it's hard to commercial fish and actually make a living.

You still fish recreationally?

>Yeah, I fish the tournament circuit, mostly catch and release.

That's good.

Just about everything is catch and release. We do it by verification, and observers on the boat, video, for points, we fish for points.

Where's your favorite place to fish recreationally?

I love to fish right here, right out front. I mean, the fishing here is so hot. People think, you know, it's like Guatemala or Mexico. Like six weeks ago, for the week, I released over 50 sailfish. Fifty in one week. That's like Mexico, it's really good right now in Miami. A lot of beautiful mackerel, a lot of snapper, grouper season just opened up. It really is, I mean, people think you gotta run to the Keys or whatever, but the fishing is really great. Tile fish, cobia, a lot of like sustainable great seafood right now.&

And right here?

Right out of Haulover. You can get out from Government Cutter Haulover, and that whole drift in there is really good. Swordfish, swordfish are awesome, and they never made it down here, you can go out every night and just about get a shot at a monster, every night now, because they stopped long-lining to the north, so those fish can get by now. It's very simple, it's not like it's like, they travel from the north to the south against the current, chasing bait. But if all these long-line boats are setting 10,000 hooks a night, how many are really going to get through? Not that many.

What do you feel like on your menu is your favorite dish? How'd you develop the menu?

The menu here is really simple. I understand that the restaurant's nice, and we've kind of turned into the Aventura crowd, Friday, Saturday night place, but realistically, we serve great, simple food. We only have a $20 check average with apps and everything. It's really more like comfort food. We're just serving really fresh product. We butcher our chickens everyday. I changed it around a lot, I mean, our meat is all from Naiman Ranch. We really know where everything comes from instead of using products... Our chicken is free range, all that kind of stuff. So, I mean, my favorite dish is the chicken right now. Crispy skin pulled chicken, that we bone it out and we leave the skin on it. Delicious, you know? Skirt steak's great. Our scallops are fantastic. I wanted to be more cafe style, upscale cafe style, you can eat in shorts and flip flops, or get dressed up, like the Aventura crowd. Ultimately we're just serving good food. Good fresh food prepared perfectly.

What's for you as a chef the greatest compliment you can receive from a customer?

We get a lot of, I just got one in the mail today, we get a lot of cards. Like for lunch today, we fill up, everyone would like it to be busier. We do lunch from 11:30 to 3 at like 1 the place is full, and then it just dies. We had three ten top birthday parties today. So, we get a lot of those and I get a lot of cards. A lot of people send cards. You know, some guy had a birthday party, just he was booked at Chef Allen's and they just went out of business after 25 years. Which is sad, I don't know Allen, but I don't like to see anyone go out of business. I'm a secure kind of restaurant owner, I know what I cook, and I know what I serve and I know it's a good product, so I think there's enough people in this area for everyone to do well that's actually good. So, I hate to see, I think it's bad for everybody, especially an iconic restaurant like that, and I don't even know him, but he's one of the Miami guys I never had the chance to work with, but just to see someone go out is not good.

And they came in here, and they were honest, the guy called me, and he was like, I'm not going to lie to you, we were booked there, and we love your restaurant, and we come there all the time, we're just going to go there with a linen.

Make it fancy.

Yeah, and I was like, that's terrible, I'm sorry to hear it. Don't worry, I'll do whatever you need. Cause people will call, say there's a birthday person, what do you like? I'll put something on the menu, I'll do stuff for you that isn't on the menu. Whatever you want. And he sent the nicest card. It was just spectacular, your warmth, and the way that you treated us throughout the whole thing made us feel special, and it just was just fantastic and we're glad we came. And we get a lot of stuff like that. Just a lot of thank you cards. What makes me the happiest is that they actually appreciate it. Because everybody knows, it's really not easy work. It's very, very hard, especially when you have a family. It's just not. Six, seven days a week I get lucky if I get a full day off every two weeks, and now we're in our ninth year. So, for people to actually notice that, that's the most gratifying thing. Cause if you're killing yourself and they're not noticing it, I guess if they're coming it's notice enough, but if they go the extra mile to let you know that, hey the food was awesome, and the service was fantastic.

How old are your kids now?

Three and nine.

Are they cooking and fishing?

Yeah, a little bit. That one picture on the wall over there, from when all the sailfish were running, he caught his first sailfish by himself.

That's awesome.

I don't know, I keep them here. Kids love restaurants, they love restaurants. It's just a fun thing to do. I love kids, I love dealing with kids, so all my friends... I'd rather deal with the kids a lot of times than the adults. The kids come into the kitchen, and I let them sit there and cook with me it's fun for me. My own kids, I don't know. I'd like to see them try to do something else that was maybe not as hard as this.

[Laughs.] I think everybody's parents feel that way about their kids. Do it better next time. Thanks.

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