Seafish, Big Prawn collaboration boosts chefs’ interest in seafood

Published on
July 3, 2018

Introducing chefs and hospitality lecturers to the wider seafood industry is the latest tool in the Seafish toolbox. 

Seafish, the United Kingdom’s body for seafood, is exploring new ways to get different parts of the supply chain together to help forge a greater understanding of what each player does, and to foster commercial links.

“Connecting directly with the fishing, aquaculture and seafood supply sectors provides student chefs, tutors and lecturers with essential knowledge and accurate information about sustainability, responsibility, traceability and seasonality. It is also a great way to encourage greater use of fish and shellfish in the kitchen,” Seafish Trade Engagement Manager Nikki Hawkins told Seafood Source. 

One of the first groups of people to benefit from the ad-hoc program was a group of chefs and hospitality lecturers accompanying young chefs to a regional round of the Seafish-sponsored U.K. Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition at Norwich College.  

The group was hosted on a tour of The Big Prawn Company, where they learned about different aspects of the business, which sells prawns, crayfish lobster, mussels, crab, scallops, clams, squid, surimi, and ready-cooked meals.

Of particular interest to the visitors was Madagascan tiger prawns, which are raised on an island farm in the bay of Mahajamba, run by the Unima Group. Demand for this product keeps growing year over year, according to Seafish. 

Shrimp and prawns in various formats has become the most valuable import into the U.K., worth GBP 697 million (USD 925 million, EUR 788 million) in 2017, and the fourth in terms of volume behind tuna, cod, and salmon.

The Big Prawn Company imports their Madagascan tiger prawns as a frozen product, and weighs, grades and repacks them at its factory in Norfolk in an automated process which it pioneered. The prawns are sold whole raw, and in a range of ready-to-eat products. 

“It was fascinating to hear how this aquaculture operation, borne out of a virtual desert, has become a pioneering example of how a whole community can be supported by one product. We were impressed by the farm’s attention to detail, including traceability and quality control  from hatch to despatch, and about their adherence to strict environmental standards, which have enabled them to attain Aquaculture Stewardship Council certification,” said Mike Warner, who leads tours of ports for Seafish. 

According to Hawkins, a tasting session to round off the visit was a definite highlight.

The Big Prawn Company works hand-in-hand with the Madagascan farm, which has contributed more than USD 2 million (EUR 1.7 million) worth of roads, utilities, communications, housing, and amenities, and helped the local village to flourish.

A supply of the prawns was donated for the final of the U.K. Young Seafood Chef of the Year competition earlier this month, in which the chefs were challenged to come up with an innovative new dish as part of their repertoire. The winners were Jamie Cracknell, 21, and Sagar Massey, 19, who are both studying professional cookery at West College Scotland.

“We are always happy to get involved in educational initiatives and were very pleased with feedback from the young chefs about our prawns. Many of them told us that they have never had the opportunity to cook with such large prawns and were fascinated by how quickly they changed color,” said Big Prawn Managing Director Will Rash. “It is important to introduce our young chefs to the broad spectrum that seafood can offer, and we are sure they will be enthusiastic advocates of our product in the future.”

Hawkins explained that Seafish is keen to hear from anyone in the hospitality sector keen to undertake a study tour. Seafish would also like to find more partners within the seafood industry able to act as hosts, or industry specialists willing to act as ambassadors and tour guides, Hawkins said.

“The idea came from discussions with industry, and made us realize that we were missing an opportunity to educate key influencers, who in turn will impart their knowledge to consumers and help them to make more informed decisions about purchasing seafood,” she said.

Photo courtesy of The Big Prawn Co.

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