The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (FEDHASA) recently challenged members to a cook off in partnership with WWF-SASSI in a mystery box cook-off that was held at Cape Town Hotel School in Granger Bay.
We have championed sustainable fish choices for years, it has been a challenge we have had with ourselves, at one point I asked SASSI to remove me form their trailblazer list, as we could not follow the list 100%. We made mistakes, not often, but we felt guilty. After discussions with SASSI our minds were put to rest, as it is not following the list 100%, but rather working at making better choices over all, educating others in making better choices. We are still saddened when we see all the crayfish leave or shores to foreign destinations, tourism suffers from this.
In our kitchen we have adopted the same traffic light system used by SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) instead of following the guidelines by SASSI our policy and guidelines provide guidance in terms of how much green, orange or red listed species we are allowed to buy in a calendar year. It also gives us guidance in how much fish may be imported. We have included the importance of buying only MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) approved suppliers if we buy from abroad.
Within our guidelines we have given ourselves room for mistakes, as species are sometimes mistakenly labelled, we have also in the past used fish when we have had no other choices from the red list, but we have within our policy allowed for less than one percent of our yearly purchases for this.
The objective for the cook off that was to create awareness around sustainable food choices and to cook creatively with using basic ingredients supplied. Chefs are the driving force in making the decision on what is placed on menus, these choices ultimately influence consumers. If consumers are informed, then chefs will make better choices.
With this cook off each captain was given a team of chefs they have never worked with before and a challenging selection of fish to work with, frozen hake, frozen half shell mussels, frozen calamari rings, frozen sliced smoked salmon. Initially we were thrown by the frozen selection, but then the thought downed on me, what if this is the only choices we have in the future…
With only 45min we were given the task of coming up with a great dish showcasing our talents but also highlighting sustainable choices.
As we did not know each other, you do not know the strengths of the members, we were lucky as our team quickly established duties and tasks, we clicked and we could decide on a basic menu and strategy.
As the items were previously frozen we had to come up with a dish that would mask the frozen fish.
For the hake we made a flavoured brine with fennel, pepper corns and ginger. The hake was left to brine for 10 minutes before dusting the skin in flour and sesame and pan frying in butter with garlic, ginger and chili.
The mussels were removed from the shells and added to a curry sauce with calamari and offcuts of hake. The smoked salmon was mixed with spinach, cream cheese and put into a tortellini and tossed in butter to finish.