“...fish in the hands of a skilled cook can become an inexhaustible source of gustatory pleasures; it is served whole, cut in fillets or sliced, boiled in water, fried, simmered in wine, cold, hot, and always equally acceptable...”
- Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, translated by M.F.K. Fisher
In 1825, Brillat-Savarin penned his musings on food and its effect on people and society. Within his preeminent manuscript, The Physiology of Taste, he espoused that fish, and seafood in general, was one of the most versatile foods. People would consume it fresh, preserved, processed, eaten in a multitude of ways, all of which enticed our sense of taste in a way no other food could.
Almost two hundred years later, we are still exhibiting his ideas on humanity’s need and love of seafood — the prawn cocktail has survived countless decades and is constantly being re-invented, low country boils and New England clam bakes are common place, and surf ‘n turf is still the crown prince on menus around the continent.
However, population of traditional seafood species, which comprise traditional diets around the world, is on the decline. With many oceanic species dwindling or being put at-risk, savvy fishermen, chefs and restaurants are increasing their focus on utilizing and providing sustainable options as part of their gastronomic options.
Catch & the Oyster Bar in Calgary, Alberta has been one of the vanguards for sustainable seafood in the Canadian culinary scene. Today, it is launching the new Buycatch program as the next step in its campaign to promote and educate about sustainable seafood.
Kyle Groves, executive chef of Catch & the Oyster Bar explains, “We’re capitalizing on the reputation we’ve built in the last twelve years of being Calgary’s premiere seafood restaurant by allowing guests and customers to buy the same fish that we buy, fresh on the same day it comes in, so they can take it home.”
Catch's entire menu is completely comprised of sustainable seafood options, identified with the Ocean Wise logo as part of their partnership with the Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise TM program. The program provides education and brings visibility to sustainable fishing practices centered on four key themes: abundance and resiliency, limiting by-catch, managing marine populations, and limiting habitat damage.
Groves explains that Buycatch is a result of listening to customers and their growing concern over ocean conservation, “Over the years, we’ve had more and more guests ask us about the Ocean Wise program. They’ll also say, ‘it’s great and I love supporting the program, but where can I get these items for home?’”
By providing a retail outlet for restaurant quality, top-grade, seasonal seafood which has been designated Ocean Wise, Groves hopes to eliminate the confusion and uncertainty consumers often face when searching for Ocean Wise-recommended products in supermarkets and stores.
Lindsay Goldthorpe, marketing manager at Catch, also sees this as a great opportunity to further educate and allow chefs and patrons to exchange information and knowledge.
“When you pick up your order, one of the chefs will come out to answer any questions and give you advice on the temperatures and how to prepare it, it’s really interactive,” says Goldthorpe.
Recipes, cooking instructions, and tips will be packaged with the seafood as part of the order, so that patrons can confidently prepare their fresh seafood that night to maximize their experience.
Groves sees this as a concerted opportunity to provide the best experience for those who are passionate about food.
“We’re selling the exact same fish as what the guests get when dining in the restaurant. The best cuts will go to who orders them first, whether it’s the retail clientele or the customers who are sitting in the restaurant and the oyster bar,” he says.
Teddie Geach, Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise account representative for Western Canada, heralds Groves' and Catch's efforts in raising awareness and improving options for consumers, "The Aquarium's Ocean Wise program applauds and supports the bold steps Chef Kyle Groves is taking - first with Catch's commitment to 100 per cent Ocean Wise offerings in March 2013, and now a novel retail market providing home cooks with sustainable seafood options to take home."
Calgarians can take advantage of the program by following Catch & the Oyster Bar on Twitter. After the daily arrival of the seafood in the morning, the restaurant will tweet out what is available for purchase. Anyone who wishes to place an order can contact the restaurant via phone to have Catch chefs prepare, portion, and package their order for pick-up that afternoon or evening.
“Because it’s coming in fresh that day, it’s in limited quantities, so it’s first come, first serve.” Goldthorpe notes.
Not only will fresh fish be available for purchase, clam chowder, sauces oysters, mussels, and a wide variety of seafood will be available according to seasonality.
Seafood has always fed, and continues to feed, a large portion of the world population. Every great culinary culture uses seafood as one of the pillars of their gastronomic identity. Preserving cultural culinary traditions also requires that we preserve the food stocks they utilize, which is why programs such as Ocean Wise and Buycatch are important to our global community.
The Buycatch program launches on June 3, alongside a public showcase of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise marine program on Stephen Avenue. You can follow @catchcalgary and the hashtag #buycatch on Twitter to get information about that day’s fresh seafood offerings. Orders will be taken via phone at 403-671-7214. More information on Ocean Wise can be found on the Ocean Wise website.