"Seeing the community behind Norwegian seafood is fascinating"

The Staff Canteen

Some of the UK’s top emerging chef talent have visited Norway, the whitefish nation, on a trip organised by the Norwegian Seafood Council, and led by Seafood from Norway chef partners, Michel Roux and Simon Hulstone.

The chefs have undertaken a discovery into why origin matters when it comes to sustainable seafood.

Visiting Norway’s cold, clear waters and the fishing communities that have remained the beating heart of the country for thousands of years has been a truly eye opening experience for many of the chefs, which include: Nikita Pathakji, MasterChef The Professionals 2022 Winner; Aled Williams, winner of the CHEF & Restaurant Magazine lockdown chef competition; Kyle Bowman, 2022 Sodexo Chef of the Year; and winners of the last four Young National Chef of the Year competitions – William Keeble, Edwin Kuk, Dan Cornish and Mae Dionio.

The chefs have been exploring the wild northern territory of Norway, taking a trip through harsh winter landscapes, visiting fiords and mountains to reach Tromsø, Honningsvåg and Skarsvåg, the world's northernmost fishing village.

The educational agenda gave a deep dive into Norway’s responsible fisheries management and quality measures, in addition to time with locals to understand how the seafood industry helps keep coastal communities thriving, especially in the far north.

Speaking to The Staff Canteen Simon Hulstone, chef-owner at the Michelin-starred Elephant restaurant, said: "This is my seventh trip with Seafood from Norway, every year has been very different and this year they've really pulled it out the bag. We got to see and spend time with the local community a lot more this time, so it was nice networking with the local people. It was great to see the Norwegians appreciate what we do with their produce, as much as we appreciate what they're doing to get the produce."

The group were challenged to catch their own supper from cold, clear waters around Honningsvåg with local producer Cape Fish at the helm to explain the importance of quality, from catch to market. The catch of the day was then cooked over an open fire in a traditional lavvo by acclaimed Norwegian chef, Gunnar Jensen. With seasonal skrei flamed with garlic and tarragon, followed by red king crab with herb butter, smoked cod’s roe, and pan-fried cod’s liver, the chefs were treated and inspired by a host of traditional Nordic delicacies.

Nikita Pathakji, MasterChef The Professionals 2022 Winner told The Staff Canteen: "The trip was fantastic and we got to do so many great things. Seeing where the cod comes from and how they treat it and how much the locals love it was incredible. It makes me more aware of Norwegian seafood and more eager to use it back home. It's important for chefs to do these trips because we need to continue learning where our food comes from and the heart behind the ingredients, particularly with something like this."

She added: "When it comes to seafood, whilst the stuff in the UK is brilliant there is definitely merit in using produce from Norway. Seeing the community behind Norwegian seafood is fascinating and it makes me and everyone want to use it more." 

Norges Råfisklag, the Norwegian sales organisation for cod fish and shellfish, delivered educational talks along the way detailing Norway’s world-leading responsible fisheries management practices – from pioneering quotas, regulations and zero discard policies to diverse fishing fleets and investment in the latest research, equipment and technology.

A trip to Skarsvåg provided the unique opportunity to see the world's northernmost fishing village and to meet another local processor, Ålesundfisk, for a tour of their facilities, quality procedures and impressive catches of the day. Here, the group had a hands-on workshop to fillet and skilfully cut the tongues from freshly caught cod, before enjoying a traditional Skrei Mølje dinner, cooked by Chef Jensen, where every part of the revered whitefish was used, from tongue-to-tail, in celebration of Norwegian cod and its gastronomic traditions.

Aled Williams, winner of the CHEF & Restaurant Magazine lockdown chef competition, said: "It's been massively inspiring, I think the love and dedication that these Norgwegian fisherman put in for their craft, it's hard not to get inspired by that. My favourite part was eating the food over the coals, cooking King Crab landed by us next to Michel Roux Jr, it doesn't really get better than that!"

He added: "The sustainability has to be really important and you can see how sustainable that country was trying to be and the legislations that they have is like nothing I've ever seen. The details they go into to land the quality of fish is like nothing I've seen."

Speaking to The Staff Canteen Michel Roux Jr added: “The beauty of this particular trip was that we were finally able to take Young National Chef of the Year Competition Winners, who missed out due to Covid travel restrictions, to Norway – and it really did blow their minds. For me it was great to reconnect with the Norwegian fishermen and chefs and enjoy dishes like the Skrei Mølje – made with beautiful white and flaky steamed seasonal Norwegian cod, with lashings of roe and liver, boiled potatoes and chopped onion. It really doesn’t get much better than that, with the products really speaking for themselves. The young chefs have come home brimming with ideas to take back to their kitchens thanks to their experience trying such amazing produce.” 

Victoria Braathen, UK Director for the Norwegian Seafood Council said: “It was a pleasure to welcome such a talented group of young chefs to Norway, the whitefish nation, and illustrate first-hand why origin matters when it comes to sustainable seafood. Being able to demonstrate Norway’s pioneering stock management and wild fishing processes is always a real eye opener for those that haven’t visited our fishing communities before, and the group were able to enjoy cooking and tasting our fresh seafood right at source, from our seasonal cod to haddock, salmon and red king crab. In the words of our chef partner, Michel Roux, “the proof is always in the eating!”

The Norwegian Seafood Council was a sponsor of the Young National Chef of the Year, and Sodexo Chef of the Year competitions.

More information about sustainably caught seafood from Norway can be found at www.seafoodfromnorway.co.uk.

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th April 2023

"Seeing the community behind Norwegian seafood is fascinating"