Byline: Shauna L. Nosler is food writer and editor and an Indianapolis-based SNP coalition member. She writes about sustainable seafood and just about everything related to the oceans, rivers and streams on her blog, The Midwest Mermaid
Head chef and owner of Michael’s—a Dublin, Ireland eatery focused on providing customers with fresh, sustainable seafood “directly from the boats”—is on a mission to get kids eating more seafood. Known to his patrons simply as Gaz, the restaurateur didn’t grow up eating seafood, nor did he always have the fondness for seafood that he does now.
“I didn’t appreciate the seafood Ireland had until we moved to Austria—it was only when living in landlocked Austria that I realized how lucky we are,” he said.
Upon his return to Ireland, he said he started noticing how many kids wouldn’t try fish.
“I used to go to the tables and try to convince (or bribe) them to try seafood and if they didn’t like it, I would cook them whatever they wanted … it worked.” And eventually, he says kids progressed from pleading for nuggets to coming in and asking, “what’s best today the squid or the mussels.”
And it was the younger generation’s newfound interest in seafood, that got Gaz geared up to launch his Seafood September menu—a special seafood-based menu, free to kids 12 and under.
As for his culinary skills, he says they were “barren” in the early days.
“It was turkey twizzlers and chip sandwiches,” says the chef who’s been featured in Food & Wine magazine not once, but twice. “I definitely did it the hard way, going from better restaurant to better restaurant,” he said. “My Chart House days were the turning point for my love of seafood … I was very lucky to work with the Chart House gang and seeing the fresh seafood for the first time was eye opening.”
And, says Gaz, it’s been a strong theme in his cooking ever since.
Here’s a little bit more about Seafood September and a recipe that’ll have everyone eating seafood, no matter their age.
Shauna Nosler: How’d you come up with the menu?
Gaz: It was based on what we’d seen work for the kids, what I thought would be good introductory dishes for them to try and a couple of curveballs—like the whole Dublin bay prawn, which is a great way for people to see the whole prawn and taste how great it is when cooked in the shell … and the theatre of wrestling it out too.
SN: Any dish that seems to be the favorite?
Gaz: The mussels are the big winner, and the whole Dublin bay prawns too. I was so proud when kids were asking for seconds—it’s happened way more than we thought it would, so happy days!
SN: Originally you thought you’d be under (profit) with this promotion, but are actually over or doing better from a profit standpoint than you originally thought, why do think this is such a hit?
Gaz: Well, I’ll have to wait until the end of the month to check the profits, but the turnover increased nicely. It also brought so much goodwill from the neighbourhood.
We were lucky that Kish Fish, one of the best wholesale suppliers rowed in behind us and sponsored a great deal of the seafood, but ultimately, it’s been a win-win for everybody … Kish Fish has invested in the next generation eating seafood … the kids got a new experience … most of all the adults got to swerve the washing up!
SN: It seems Irish people don’t eat much seafood—certainly not as much as they should. The same is true here in the U.S. Thoughts? How can we get more people eating seafood?
Gaz: There are a few theories, one of the main ones is that “Fish on Friday” was turned into a religious punishment, but I think mainly it’s the perception that fish is hard to cook or that it stinks out the house.
I would love to see more fishmongers open so home cooks have greater access to fresher seafood. Sometimes the displays I see in supermarkets make me sad … a shop can be mere metres from the sea and have week-old imported Greek seabass curling up on the counter—who wants to cook that? That will stink out the house!
For the sauce
Knob of butter*
1 small onion or 2 banana shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup fish stock, broth or white wine
16 ounces cream
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 small monkfish tails, skin removed
Crab claws, about 4-5 ounces each (Gaz cooks and break his but says you can get very good frozen ones.)
8 ounces, whole bay prawns
5 ounces of cockles*
Smoked salmon, small dices (Most fishmongers sell smoked salmon trimmings at the fraction of the price of slices, they are tailor made for dishes like this.)
Pasta and garnish
2 pounds good quality linguine (Gaz uses a durum wheat pasta whenever possible.)
Big pinch of flat leaf parsley, sliced thinly
Pinch of salt
Lemon, cut into 4 wedges
A glug of extra virgin olive oil*
A big pot of salted water for cooking the pasta
A frying pan, with a lid if possible
A pot large enough to hold the sauce, fish and pasta at the end
For the sauce, which can be made a day ahead
Preparing the dish
*A knob of butter is a British term for “some butter.”
*Cockles are shellfish: clams, scallops, mussels in any combination are good to use in this recipe.
*A glug of oil, is a bit of oil depending on preference
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