By Flavor & The Menu
September 10, 2019
Danielle Leoni recounts her first fish buying experience as a chef: “I ever so proudly bought a box of frozen fillets from a restaurant supply store. I didn’t know the story of the fish, and it’s not that I didn’t know what that meant, but I didn’t even consider that it meant anything.”
She continued to buy whatever she found in the frozen case at a price point that made sense for her menu. However, as she started interacting more with her community and local farmers, she began to consider where her products came from and started buying those with a story she could believe in.
“In recognizing my own path, it’s important to have conversations and nurture discovery, rather than just scolding people,” she says. Now, she dedicates a portion of her menu to list the farmers who provide her food. “To get food to our customers, someone’s hands were toiling, and I am the benefactor of their work.”
At The Breadfruit & Rum Bar, Leoni serves both farmed and wild-caught seafood. One of her proudest moments was creating a dish for the James Beard Foundation Awards in Chicago, where she featured a Jamaican-inspired crudo dish featuring farmed branzino. She incorporated both the flavors of the island as well as those of her local Arizona culture into the dish, using habanero dust, green onion, and passionfruit juice, along with multiple other ingredients.
“We served 800 dishes, and each had about 13 touches,” she says. “It was a beast of a dish.” She plans to bring the dish to her restaurant at some point in the future.