Meet the SA chefs who are trailblazers of sustainable fishing

Shelley Seid spoke to some of the winners of the WWF-Sassi Trailblazer Awards

08 November 2017 - 12:36 By Shelley Seid
Graham Neilson worries about the devastation of fish stocks by overfishing that is killing small industries that rely on fishing their own waters.
Graham Neilson worries about the devastation of fish stocks by overfishing that is killing small industries that rely on fishing their own waters.
Image: Supplied

Determined to save our oceans are seven chefs who, on October 23, were recognised and celebrated at the WWF-Sassi Trailblazer Awards for actively championing sustainable seafood practices in their restaurants.

• GRAHAM NEILSON, CO-OWNER AND CHEF AT 9TH AVENUE BISTRO, DURBAN

What worries you the most about the state of the oceans?

Besides the obvious problem of climate change damaging large parts of the ocean, overfishing and trawling are devastating fish stocks and killing small industries that rely on fishing their own waters. In addition to that, the amount of plastic in the ocean is horrific.

How do you - as a chef - raise awareness?

We have a sustainability blog, the Responsible Restaurateur, on our 9th Avenue Bistro website to help fellow restaurants become more sustainable. We also educate our staff and customers. People need to understand that we will be the last generation eating wild fish.

Your favourite seafood?

Mussels are wonderful, affordable and really versatile. I use them a lot at home.

Fish and ... ?

Mackerel, raw as a tartare, with some horseradish.

The steps you will take to keep your trailblazer title?

Keep on doing what we currently do. Hopefully more restaurants will become aware of their responsibility in sustainability and education.

Philip Alcock.
Philip Alcock.
Image: Supplied

• PHILIP ALCOCK, HEAD CHEF AT SEA BREEZE FISH & SHELL RESTAURANT IN CAPE TOWN

What worries you the most about the state of the oceans?

People dumping garbage, suppliers selling red-list fish.

How do you - as a chef - raise awareness?

I do in-house training with the staff and I hope when they leave they keep up the same practices. I also speak to my guests on a daily basis.

Anything in the sea - Sassi-compliant obviously - that you won't eat?

I like everything but I won't touch perlemoen due to the problems with poaching.

Your favourite seafood?

Hake. A simple fish that tastes brilliant if cooked properly.

Fish and ... ?

Salsa verde.

The steps you will take to keep your trailblazer title?

Just carry on with the practices I'm following now.

Robert Giljam.
Robert Giljam.
Image: Supplied

• ROBERT GILJAM, HEAD CHEF AT SOCIETI BISTRO CAPE TOWN

What worries you the most about the state of the oceans?

Our demand for seafood is outstripping the oceans' ability to produce. Humanity needs to be more conscious, less wasteful and more creative with the use of less popular seafood.

How do you - as a chef - raise awareness?

I set aside time for education about sustainability, whether it's with our team, Societi Bistro's guests or my friends and family.

Anything in the sea - Sassi compliant obviously! - that you won't eat?

I am not particularly fond of oysters.

Your favourite seafood?

Pole- and line-caught yellowfin tuna

Fish and ... ?

I love Japanese cuisine. Umami flavours like den miso enhance certain types of fish.

The steps you will take to keep your trailblazer title?

Coming up with new and intriguing ways to present only green-listed fish.

Julie Carter.
Julie Carter.
Image: Supplied

• JULIE CARTER, OWNER OF DELI AND FRESH FISH OUTLET OCEAN JEWELS IN CAPE TOWN

What worries you the most about the state of the oceans?

My father is a fisherman and I have personally seen the huge change in our ocean - 35 years ago they would come back with a full and varied load. Now they go out and come back empty handed or with only yellowtail.

How do you - as a chef - raise awareness?

I try to make green-list fish interesting by creating a variety of dishes with one fish rather than a variety of fish. There is so much that can be done with hake aside from boring fish and chips.

Your favourite seafood?

Yellowtail. It's versatile and underrated.

Fish and ... ?

Salads with lovely ingredients.

The steps you are planning to take to keep your trailblazer title?

I'm going to start blogging again and continue to educate customers.

Massimo Orione.
Massimo Orione.
Image: Supplied

• MASSIMO ORIONE, CHEF AND CO-OWNER OF MASSIMO'S IN HOUT BAY, CAPE TOWN

What worries you the most about the state of the oceans?

That they are still seen as an unlimited source of food, with very little regulation.

How do you - as a chef - raise awareness?

We state on each fish dish the Sassi colour. Having a conversation with customers about Sassi awareness.

Anything in the sea - Sassi-compliant obviously! - that you won't eat?

Oysters, but my wife loves them.

Your favourite seafood?

Pan-fried hake on a bed of lentils and roast tomatoes sauce (my dinner last night).

Fish and ... ?

Patatine. (Italian for chips)

The steps you are planning to take to keep your trailblazer title?

Improve staff's awareness of Sassi principles so they can better advise customers. Continue to help by eliminating as many single-use plastics as we can.

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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