Guiding millennials to seafood, one pop-up shop at a time

Published on
August 10, 2017
Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival

Fighting increasing competition for attention amongst other proteins – especially chicken – seafood companies are seeking novel ways to promote their products. In particular, they are keen to entice members of the millennial generation to eat more seafood.

Industry body Seafood Scotland recently tackled the issue with a series of pop-up events in Glasgow and London, that paired Scottish beers with a seafood menu designed to overturn traditional lunch-time gastro-pub food, where typical fare includes fish and chips, fish pie, and scampi.

Seafood Scotland’s chefs came up with street-food recipes, including spicy mackerel wraps, New York-style lobster rolls, blackened hake tacos and beer-battered langoustines – all perfect tapas-style finger food for enjoying with a beer. 

The immediate audience for the pop-ups were traditional food journalists and food bloggers – a new generation of writers whose influence in informing food culture over the past few years is widely recognized. 

Scottish seafood ambassador and langoustine fisherman Jimmy Buchan joined the events to talk about the hazards of catching seafood for a living and why everyone should be eating more of it.

“These were well-attended gatherings which demonstrated that the latest street-food trend is highly suited to innovative seafood dishes,” Buchan said. “We hope that more chefs will take up the challenge to include a greater variety of Scottish species on their menus, and give customers an exciting eating experience that previously may only have been available in a more exclusive eatery. By demonstrating that langoustine, mackerel, lobster, and hake can be easy-to-eat, everyday food, we made it a huge hit.” 

Clare MacDougall, trade marketing manager for Seafood Scotland, was delighted with feedback from the events. 

“Our seafood pairings were very successful and everyone loved the simplicity and street feast style of the food. We have had lots of requests for the recipes already, and are hopeful that pubs, restaurants, and cafes will start to experiment more with seafood, so that people realize the versatility and choice available,” she said.

Another novel approach was taken by events company Carousell, which organized a three-day pop-up restaurant at The Tate Modern art gallery in July. Here, Australian-grown hiramasa kingfish from CleanSeas was the star of the menu, which attracted diners from 3 to 93 years old. 

Japanese-trained chef Saun Presland designed an Asian-style menu for the event, featuring both cooked and sashimi-style hiramasa kingfish.

“I love everything about this fish, from the quality, to the taste and texture, and it is perfect with Asian flavors,” Presland said. “Hiramasa kingfish is so much more versatile than salmon or tuna and I am really excited to have the opportunity to promote it to such a wide audience at the Tate Modern. I hope that it leads more people to ask for this fish when dining out.” 

Cook and food writer Melissa Hemsley agreed. 

“Sean’s food showed off this superb clean-tasting fish at its best and he gave everyone a very enjoyable experience [that] I am sure they will want to repeat,” she said. 

Attracting an even wider audience was the two-day Pommery Dorset Seafood Festival in the port of Weymouth, featuring more than 100 stalls. Seafood of every persuasion was served and cooked for several thousand visitors, who were spoiled for choice between shellfish and sea fish, Asian and Western flavors, traditional paellas and pasta dishes, and street food. 

The successful event, now in its tenth year, was promoted as great family entertainment, with something to suit every taste, and an emphasis on responsibly sourced seafood from the region. Major attractions were chef demonstrations and tastings, filleting sessions, and barbeque lessons. 

“Fish and shellfish are really underrated by the public for the barbeque in the U.K., and I love showing them just how simple it is to cook.,” Simon Dyer, an expert pitmaster who attended the event, said. “The younger generation is particularly keen on barbeques and I like to think that I have encouraged more than a few people to add seafood to their repertoire.”

New for this year was Fishy Tales, an interactive, celebrity seafood discussion panel. It was hosted by fisherman and author Nick Fisher; with panelists Caroline Bennett, founder and owner of Moshi Moshi, the U.K.’s first automated sushi bar; and a keen conservationist, seafood chef, and crusader Mitch Tonks; and angler, journalist, author and television presenter Jeremy Paxman.

The event enabled the audience to explore the wider issues of purchasing and eating seafood, from sustainability, to price, availability and seasonality, and even cooking tips. The panel was able to dispel a number of myths about when, and how to eat seafood, and what people should be buying. A long discussion was held about the ethics of eating farmed fish and whether we should instead be eating the species that are made into fishmeal. 

Jeremy Paxman admitted that as an ardent salmon fisherman, he never eats farmed salmon, which prompted a challenge from an audience member to visit a salmon farm and to learn more about the aquaculture process rather than repeating hyperbole. This he accepted, and has since visited a Scottish salmon farm, but his thoughts are yet to be heard.

Organizer Helen Fisher was delighted with the sell-out events.

“There are few opportunities for the general public to get behind the seafood world and to discuss the things that concern or puzzle them about eating seafood,” she said. “ I believe that our panelists today have helped considerably in setting the record straight and giving people a better understanding of this complex sector.”

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