Sherrill perceived the Gulf Coast to be a blank slate due to the lack of competition in the area, which is why in 2017 he opened SALT. SALT has two main focuses, Alabama Gulf seafood and the underutilized seafood species that aren’t ‘typically’ considered cuisine-worthy. The latter is spawned from Chef Chris Sherrill’s work with the NUISANCE Group, which he co-founded in May of 2015.
The group initially came to fruition due to concern over the invasive Lionfish, which is considered a major threat to the aquatic ecosystem on the Gulf Coast, due to the fact that they have no natural predators, eat a lot and are willing to consume anything that crosses its path. The NUISANCE Group also highlights underappreciated fish, affectionally referred to as “bycatch” or “trash fish” – which they believe is misleading to the average consumer.
That’s where the two, SALT and the NUISANCE Group, join forces. Opened on August 21st and aiming to avoid all kitchen waste, SALT has created multiple dishes and menu items using nuisance fish and pest sealife as culinary cuisine. Brought to us for sampling, courtesy of SALT, were the charcuterie boards with local cheeses, jelly and cured meats, an assortment of cheesecakes and cakes, SALT’s classic surf & turf, seared scallops, oysters and cheese rind in oyster beds and oyster drills.
In keeping with the theme, oyster drills are considered bycatch, with a name that tells part of their story. Oyster drills are known to drill a hole into oysters, snails, or anything that crosses its path, and secrete hydrochloric acid into its victim. This acid is secreted into the muscle, which liquifies the victim and it is then eaten by the oyster drill.
By turning the oyster drills into a dish at SALT, Sherrill is ensuring the safety of sea life, that otherwise have little protection from oyster drills, and single-handedly changing the way we perceive seafood. The drills are darker in color and similar to cooked oysters in texture but have more of a wild game-like taste. Speaking for only myself, it was initially hard to get past the predatory imagery that oyster drills are known for, but the flavor of the dish was incredible and made me rethink my own perceptions of what is edible and inedible by common standards.
The dining experience at SALT was, as stated in the beginning, incredibly educational and equally enjoyable. It truly is a one-of-a-kind eatery that has the potential to change the seafood game everywhere. Though competition continues to grow, SALT is a standout restaurant that I believe will stand the test of time. As Chef Chris Sherrill says, “eat ’em to beat ’em.”