William Wilt took over the kitchen at Baltimore’s iconic Rusty Scupper last November. While he has spent much of his recent career working with concepts (Café Deluxe in D.C., opening Romano’s Macaroni Grills along the East Coast), he was a partner in Country Fare Inn, in Owings Mills, when he was 22 years old.
A native of Howard County, he grew up visiting his grandparents on Chincoteague Island during the summers, where he learned to fish. He’s still an avid angler and keeps a small motorboat in the garage of the Westminster home he shares with his wife, Tara, and 15-year-old daughter, Sabrina. His oldest son, Nick, 22, just graduated from college with hopes of becoming a professional photographer, and his middle child, 18-year-old Harrison—Wilt’s favorite fishing buddy—recently moved to Oklahoma for basic training.
What’s on your grill this summer?
Before he shipped out, my son caught a fairly sizable rainbow trout in a pond in Westminster. Fish like that, I season with salt and pepper, and stuff with half a lime and half an orange, some rosemary and sage I have growing in my kitchen, and grill in foil. I open the foil right before it’s done, so it gets the smoky flavor. I have what used to be a gas grill, but I turned it into charcoal. I took the burners out and it doubles as a smoker. I always use lump charcoal, no lighter fluid.
Any suggestion for grilling fish at home?
I do a fantastic honey-cumin mahi mahi—I roast the cumin seeds and grind them in a food processor or coffee mill. I only marinate it for about half an hour; you don’t want the lime to start cooking the fish. Serve it with orange- mango pico de gallo. It smells fantastic when it’s grilling. The marinade puts a nice dark grill mark on the fish.
The Rusty Scupper has an auspicious reputation…
It’s the great-uncle of restaurants in Baltimore. When I tell people I’m the chef here, I always hear it’s the best view in Baltimore. We do the best brunch buffet I’ve ever seen; the dessert display is amazing. It’s 12 feet long. Usually we do 500-800 covers for brunch, more on holidays.
Do you have a goal there?
I want to have the best crab cake in Baltimore. Usually the winners are Greek-style with a lot of egg product and baking soda. I like a traditional Maryland crab cake, with jumbo lump and a small amount of filler. You’ve got to have a bit of bread. We use a soft white bread and chop it fine—just enough to hold the crab together, so it doesn’t fall apart on you.
Honey-Cumin Grilled Mahi Mahi with Orange-Mango Pico de Gallo
Courtesy Chef William Wilt, Rusty Scupper
4 Mahi Mahi fillets (about 6-7 ounces each)
Honey-cumin marinade (see below)
Pico de gallo (see below)
¼ cup cumin seeds, roasted and ground
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup honey
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about one lime)
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon dark chili powder
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
Place all ingredients in a blender jar and blend for 1 minute.
Pico de gallo
2 oranges, peeled, seeded and diced
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pit removed and diced
1 small red onion, diced
¼ cup fresh lime juice (about one lime)
¼ cup cilantro, chopped (plus 4 sprigs for garnish)
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
Combine all ingredients in a medium stainless bowl and toss. Store in a tightly sealed container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
For mahi mahi — Place the fish fillets in half the marinade for 30 minutes.
Remove and let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before grilling. Heat the grill to very hot and brush lightly with oil. Grill mahi mahi flesh side down 3-4 minutes. Turn and place on slightly cooler spot on grill; baste with remaining marinade and cook another 3-4 minutes.
20 spears of fresh asparagus
Salt and pepper
Season asparagus with salt and pepper and toss lightly in olive oil.
Grill for one minute and hold in a warm place.
Plating — Fan five asparagus spears on each plate. Place the grilled mahi mahi in center of plate and top with pico de gallo. Garnish each plate with a sprig of cilantro.
This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of Baltimore STYLE.