As a country surrounded by ocean we are spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood, however a lot of Kiwi’s don’t often think about the sustainable choices and consequences when it comes to seafood. Fraser Shenton, head chef of FISH Restaurant, is very passionate about sustainable seafood, and does a lot of his own research into suppliers to make sure their practices are resource-friendly. We asked him more about this as well as its delicious new menu.
Interview Natalie Cyra
FISH restaurant has a new menu, what can diners expect?
We’re continuing to showcase the best sustainable seafood on offer. I’m a strong believer in showcasing what nature can do, rather than what the chef can do. This menu includes a few twists on typically safe dishes geared towards the cooler months, including crayfish mac n cheese and Queen Crab cooked in a soul-warming chilli bisque.
Do you have a favourite dish on the menu and why?
The clams are a true seafood lovers’ dream. Cloudy Bay produces consistently high quality Storm Shell clams, which I’ve chosen to use as they’re large enough to allow me to play with both of the two sections of meat. The combination of these textures and the comforting flavours of the chardonnay and oak butter they’re paired with make for a pretty stand out dish.
As a country surrounded by ocean we are spoilt for choice when it comes to seafood, however a lot of Kiwi’s don’t often think about the sustainable choices and consequences when it comes to seafood. Why do you think this is?
While consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the source of what’s on their plates and in their fridge, price still drives a lot of people away from sustainable seafood. People don’t want to pay for someone to look after the environment, but the more that we start these conversations the more people realise the ongoing effects poor fishing practices can have on each one of us.
From a commercial standpoint, a lot of suppliers want to maximise their catch while spending as little time as possible on the water. This means that they’re scooping up everything they can, without considering the environmental impact.
A recent move to reduce the total allowable catch for a few species was a big win for sustainable seafood in New Zealand. I’m hoping that suppliers will look to replace revenue lost by reduced catch sizes by moving to deliver high quality, sustainably sourced product at a higher price.
How important for the kitchen is it to have close relationships with suppliers to ensure the produce received/ served is fresh and sustainable/organic?
Before we engage with a new supplier, I do pretty substantial research to ensure that all of our seafood is produced in an environmentally friendly manner. Maintaining a close relationship with these suppliers means that I’m the first one to get my hands on the pick of the catch.
How do you think other top seafood restaurants in other cities in New Zealand and globally are doing to support sustainable practices? Is NZ ahead of the game?
100 per cent of the seafood on our menu is MSC certified, which is something that we’re extremely proud of. There aren’t a lot of restaurants out there who can make the same claim.
Supporting sustainable practices is a resource intensive process. It’s not the easy way out, so you have to be truly passionate about protecting our environment to spend the time and money required to make a change.
We work in a relatively small industry in NZ, which means that as restaurants we have the ability to influence suppliers. If we collectively move away from purchasing non-sustainably sourced seafood, suppliers will be forced to review their practices and meet the demand. Slowly, New Zealand is getting there, but there is still a lot of education to be done with those in decision-making positions.
For more on FISH Restaurant’s new menu and sustainable fishing practices, visit fishrestaurant.co.nz