Tony Seichrist: The Wyld Dock Bar

Savannah chef on the impacts of COVID-19

Few industries have been so singularly affected by coronavirus as the food and beverage community, but chefs like Tony Seichrist are hopeful the pandemic can be an impetus for positive change. Here, the chef-owner of Wyld Dock Bar tells us about his pandemic food cravings, why we need to rethink our food supply chains, and how he’s revamping his restaurant menu for a post-COVID palate.

ON RE-OPENING:

We switched to all takeout food when we first re-opened in April. We felt lucky to be in a position to do that, but personally, I had a problem, from an ecological perspective, with the amount of trash we were producing as a restaurant with that model. It was unsustainable. It’s been challenging because we just don’t know what’s going on with the virus. But again, we’re lucky because we’re over 90 percent outdoor dining, and we have a lot of room to allow for social distancing.

ON VULNERABILITIES IN THE FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN:

This pandemic has raised obvious concerns about breaks in the food supply chain, and you’ve seen it wreak havoc on restaurants, farmers, and really, everyone. It has exposed a weakness in our systems that we’ve known about and talked about for at least 20 years, or the time I’ve been cooking, which is that we have this monopoly-style system of food producers, and we have to think about diversifying. Throughout the years, I’ve talked to health department officials, representatives from large food companies, and they would all prefer you buy from large producers. It’s the status quo. But there’s a reason that doesn’t work, and we have gotten a big dose of that. At the end of the day, the free market will decide, but I’m absolutely hopeful: People have been forced to think about where their food comes from — hell, they’re thinking about where their toilet paper comes from — in a serious way for the first time. No one takes it for granted anymore.

ON CREATIVE SOLUTIONS:

Mobile abattoirs are my big thing. It’s better for animals — they can be processed on site instead of traveling and becoming stressed out. I’ve also been looking into aquaponics. I’d love to get in touch with a company like Farmshelf, which makes smart, indoor farms. I think restaurants could take a page from their playbook: We could grow our own arugula, our own basil. Those things add up.

ON PANDEMIC FOOD CRAVINGS:

My girlfriend and I live on Tybee, so we’ve been eating a lot of blue crab, red fish, whiting, and chicken from Brandon [Chonko] at Grassroots. We’ve been making chicken piccata. It’s one of those nice, easy things you can make in 15 minutes.

ON SELF-CARE WHILE SHELTERING IN PLACE:

Our house used to be split into a duplex with a hot tub on the bottom floor, so I’ve been doing a pre-dawn soak every day. It’s a little spa-like experience. Then, I do a few push- ups and try to keep moving. Being sedentary isn’t good for me.

ON NEW MENUS FOR NEW PALATES:

I think we’ll see more of a seafood shack style of dining. We’ll always have quality ingredients and our love of food, so it’s not going to turn into a fries joint kind of thing, but I think we’ll be looking more in our backyard for food we can pull locally. I think you’ll see more blue crab on the menu, plenty of shrimp, and more diversified fish options in smaller amounts — a little more simplistic, a little more elemental, but done with great ingredients.

Find more at thewylddockbar.com

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