What I'm up to:
Latest video updates:
I've been out on the train filming a few bits with my good friend Mark Hix and the guys from First great western.
Here's a few videos showing what we've been up to:
First Great Western - Pullman Menu
Little Black Book
50th anniversary of Brixham Trawler Race:
The trawler race in Brixham is one of the biggest events of the year locally and this year saw the 50th anniversary. The whole town gets behind it and the fisherman celebrate over the course of the day before returning to sea the next day - a little the worse for wear!. It's not only great fun but also raises much needed money for our Fishermen's Mission in Brixham, a place that I love that is vital to our community life in the town. It's not just local fishermen that get involved, this year there were many from Norway and Holland who come not only to race but enjoy the atmosphere of the port. The weather was not with the fleet on the day with winds gusting up to 40 knots, luckily offshore, so the sea conditions were flat. However, severe rain stopped play and the race was cut short. The boat I was on - the Angel Emiel owned by my friend Graham Perkes - was declared the winner I heard later, so all was worth it. It's a great tradition in the town and long may it continue.
A good week, Dinner at the Groucho & drinks at No 10:
It's been a busy time, my new book "Fish Easy" has just been published and I have been doing a few dinners to celebrate it's launch. One of them was at the Groucho club in London a favourtie haunt of mine. I did the dinner with Mat and our friend Nathan Outlaw another awesome seafood cook whose first book is published on Monday. I've already got a copy, it's fantastic, its easy to see why he is the only seafood cook in the UK with 2 Michelin stars. The menu was a combination of both our dishes, to start we prepared, baccala, a mix of seafood with olive oil and lemon and cured mackerel with cucumber and horseradish, to follow the freshest spider crab with just olive oil and a little lemon, then lobster calderettta, one of my all time favourite dishes, then turbot with warm tartare sauce - it was a seafood feast. It was great to cook for such a crowd and a good bunch of chef mates. the late night and long day nearly finished me off!. The following Monday I went to Number 10 with Nathan, it was fantastic, the day co-incided with the worlds best 50 restaurant awards in London so we were amongst some great guys, in fact name a famous chef and he or she was there, it was great fun and finished by dinner at Henry Harris's restaurant Racine, one of my all time favourtie places to eat. I crawled back to room at the Groucho glad to get into bed and at the end of what has seemed like a month of parties and dinners..... I finally Tonksed myself..!!
Communication is Key:
When I was first in the fish business I didn’t ever hear the word sustainability, now thanks to some of the great campaigning work that has been done it’s become a topic deeply rooted in our behaviour and thinking. For us in the industry we have access to good opinion and knowledge, but for the consumer, the ones who really matter, it’s a different story. The amount of confused messaging must be as damaging as it is guiding. Don’t eat this and don’t eat that then pick up another book or read another blog and it’s ok. The fact is that there is so much mixed messaging that I wouldn’t be surprised if consumers gave up on it and hoped that their retailer or restaurant had done all the work for them.
Take the cod argument for example, a recent brilliant TV show that highlighted some of the poorer practices in commercial fishing also said categorically “Cod is of the menu “ – why ? Norway as an example produces over 700,000 tonnes of MSC approved fish, we’ve always imported more cod than we catch locally yet you would believe we’ve eaten it all from broad statements like that. And, whatever we may think, gurnard and dabs will not replace cod consumption.
I am lucky to have spent time as a fishmonger and chef and have access to some great people across the industry and strongly believe that our policies in my business ate the right ones. But I recently discovered that in the new Fish 2 Fork guide that my restaurants along with another well know seafood chef were rated as one of the worst in country. How? Why? I contacted them and they told it was because I sold plaice & ray which are on the “red” list, if I took them off I could score higher. We take sustainability seriously in our business with MSC accreditation and other practices, I live in Brixham and talk it all day long with the guys out on the front line. The South West fisheries are know to be well managed and controlled, most of my fish is from there. When I look out my window and see the tiny fleet that makes up England’s biggest port it’s hard to imagine there are enough boats and days at sea to regress stocks, in fact the news about our fishery is positive down here. I did my research on plaice and challenged my poor rating with Fish 2 Fork.
In the East Channel we know there is a discards problem associated with French fishermen. Unless tackled it will most certainly keep the stock under pressure. The science advice is that stock status is "unknown" because of lots of variables. However the signs are that the stock is rising and the fishing pressure is falling. The science says "do not increase catches and do something about discards”.
In West Channel, the Brixham fishery, the picture is clearer and better. The science says there has been a dramatic cut in fishing pressure, mainly due to the Beam trawlers cutting pressure on sole. This has been under the long-term sole management plan. The biomass of plaice is skyward! We know there are migration uncertainties involving East Channel, but discards are known to be much lower in this fishery than in East. The beam trawlers in West Channel are still using the gear developed in the Project 50% Trials and are seeing great improvements in catch quality, much reduced discards rates and they are not catching the smaller end of the mature size-ranges. It's a good news story!
If West Channel plaice was managed by single-area quotas we would have 33% to 45% increased quota for 2012, but the quota is combination of West and East channel, with the East being the far bigger portion. All in all, the picture is one of Brixham vessels doing their best to deliver more, within sustainable limits. The ray we buy from the market are not targeted species but bi-catch, it would seem wrong to not buy them when they are landed.
I thought I would look at the top rated restaurants – what am I doing wrong? One that I looked at used 4 species of fish on it’s menu, 2 of them, gurnard and pollock, which are being hailed as the new species to eat have huge challenges, pollock caught on the South Coast is tighter controlled than ever and gurnard is data deficient and we are unable to form a true picture of the stocks – even I’m confused, let alone a consumer!
The reasons our ratings are so low is that all of the Fish 2 Fork opinion comes from one source, the MCS (Marine Conservation Society) now I’m not saying they are wrong but I am saying that one body does not have all the answers and should not be dishing out blanket advice without balancing it with the other great work and opinions that are out there. Please please please let’s get the communication right and clear about all this so those ultimately eating seafood can make proper informed choices.
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