New fishmonger refuses to sell the top 5 species
A determination to educate its customers on the importance of eating locally produced seafood has got new U.K. fishmonger business Cormacks Seafood off to a flying start.
Opened on 28 July in Totnes, Devon, the start-up shop is one of many seafood businesses in the United Kingdom to have turned its head to the domestic market using locally landed fish and shellfish. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, around 80 percent of the country’s seafood was exported, while most of the seafood consumed in the market was imported.
Founder Aarik Persaud, who has more than 20 years' experience working as a chef, has taken this commitment to local products a step further by refusing to sell any of the market’s so-called big five of salmon, tuna, cod, haddock, or prawns. Instead, he sells only seasonal, locally-caught day-boat fish and shellfish, with one exception – organically-farmed ChalkStream trout.
While not a day goes by when he isn’t asked for one of the aforementioned top five species, Persaud told SeafoodSource that there has been a strong buy-in from patrons.
“Our customers are mostly socially and environmentally conscious, so I find they are very supportive of our ethos and drawn in by the fact that we only sell local fish," he said. "Some people are disappointed when they come in looking for prawns or tuna to make a specific recipe but after hearing a bit on why we only sell local catch, they tend to walk out of the door with a suitable replacement."
While the shop has only been open for around four weeks, Cormacks has been running as a seafood product-focused business since 2018, only buying from small-scale fishing vessels that use traditional fishing methods. It began by canning day-boat mackerel, marinated in sauces.
“These fishermen are the backbone of coastal communities and are custodians of their small patch of the sea,” Persaud said.
The shop came about after Persaud was furloughed from his executive chef position in a high-end restaurant in London during the coronavirus lockdown. Resolved to getting back to work, he developed the plan for Cormacks.
At the shop, he uses his culinary experience and knowledge to transform its seafood into a range of ready-to-cook products, including jerked cuttlefish, hake stuffed with harissa, and trout en papillote.
“There are some amazing parts of a fish which are often discarded, such as the cheeks, ribs, and head. I think the seafood industry does need a shake-up. We have been eating plain battered whitefish for too long. Don’t get me wrong, it is great, but where are the new seafood products?” he said.
A lot of those new products can be sourced locally, by showing people the types of seafood that are available outside of the “big five.”
“For me, one of the most important things that I can do is to show my local community the importance of supporting their local fishing fleet and teaching them about the abundance of fresh, delicious seasonal seafood that is landed right here,” Persaud said. “We are fortunate enough to be able to access seafood that is fresh off the boat, so why would I promote anything else?”
Persaud said he believes the COVID situation may have helped drive an increased interest in home-cooking.
“Two big hits so far have been crab and mussels. Besides being perfect summer foods, and in the peak of their quality at the moment, we work with two great producers – Brixham Crab Company and River Teign Shellfish – who do an incredible job and we are very proud to work with them,” Persaud said.
Demand for certain items has even managed to catch him off guard.
“A big surprise for me has been clams – I had no idea how popular they are and get asked for them all the time,” he said. “The supply can be limited, so we tend to sell out the same day they come in.”
In the future, Persaud said that he would love to produce more packaged products.
“I’m a chef and I love to make things out of the fish we buy, so we try and keep a well-stocked freezer full of handmade, preservative-free fish fingers, katsu, crab cakes, and the like. There’s never been any good-quality, locally-caught fish products in supermarkets and that’s something we’d love to do," he said. "Who knows, maybe one day we will see Cormacks Fish Fingers available across the country!”
Photo courtesy of Cormacks Seafood