Reel in healthful menu choices with beneficial results—on an individual and global basis.
Mention seafood these days and three issues quickly surface: sustainability, healthfulness and delivering bold flavor. Lucky for us they go hand-in-hand.
Preserving the Seas
In its most basic definition sustainability means that a process or state can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. For operators and their customers, that means sourcing product in ways that re also not harmful to the environment at large.
“Everyone, everywhere seems to have a wide sweeping desire to be better to the planet,” says Chef Marion Gibson, director of culinary for Aramark's Business Services' National Catering Group. “And they are thinking way beyond recycling, they are not only looking at where their food comes from and how they procure it on an individual basis, but also are asking us as foodservice professionals to make responsible purchasing decisions, too. For us, that means buying locally whenever possible, using organics and sourcing sustainable product,” she adds.
Indeed, every operator FM spoke with now has either a formal, corporate sustainability mission statement or is working on one, no matter how small or large the operation!
“We find that the conversation is focused on how to define ‘local,’ as our (student) customers are very interested in supporting local vendors,” says Bill Albright, vice president of Operations for Parkhurst Dining Services in Pittsburgh, PA.
And Rob Coyne, executive chef at Washington and Jefferson College, in Washington, PA, is on the front line of customer contact and education for his staff and customers. “Chefs have been talking about sustainability for a few years and we now have some great resources dedicated to sourcing those products.” One such program Coyne is referring to is the Seafood Watch program from the Monterey Bay Aquarium which researches and evaluates wild caught and farmed seafood products and then shares their recommendations. (For more information check the sidebar below. Also see related story at www.food-management.com/article/17237.)
“There's an added value when sourcing sustainable product.” says Gibson, “The healthful properties of wild fish give menus a natural boost.” Gibson is referring to the fact that fish is naturally high in protein, low in bad fats, and a good source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (especially in oily fish like salmon from cold waters) which may help reduce inflammation, decrease the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, and help to control cholesterol, among other things.
Tom Murray, executive chef, CEC for dinning services at Michigan University capitalizes on those facts and the call for healthier options in general. “When I came here everything on the menu was brown — from the French fries to the fish — so we quickly modified the menu and recipes to reflect a new, all fresh approach.” Out went the fried fish and chips and in came fresh (tuna, salmon, shellfish) and IQF products (like the tortilla crusted tilapia shown above) for steamed, grilled, and baked options.
“Now, each day, we offer the students baked or grilled fish with the choice of a sauce (Hollandaise, Black Bean salsa or fresh corn relish) to complement the fish. Of course, it's always available naked, too, simply brushed with marinade and grilled to order.”
“The future of menuing seafood here is to continue to offer new varieties of fresh product and to educate customers on the benefits of seafood,” says Murray.
“The reality of seafood is that it continues to get more great press because it's lean and healthy,” says Coyne (Parkhurst). “Now our customers are choosing to eat fish once or twice a week as opposed to once or twice a month. We're finding that fish is replacing beef and putting the push on chicken,” he adds.
Bring on the Flavor
Those same customers want healthful, sustainable seafood with full-flavor global profiles. “We just introduced Hemisflavors,” says Albright. The concept features more than 250 fresh global cuisine recipes, prepared authentically with raw ingredients indigenous to Brazil, Greece, India, Mexico, Morocco, Thailand and Vietnam. The program, designed to satisfy customer interest in world culinary traditions, can be found on daily menus at both school and business locations.
“It's all tied together,” adds Aramark's Gibson. “Our two major focuses then are sourcing sustainable foods in general (seafood, produce, meats, etc.) and second, to provide these beneficial fishes in the most creative ways we can.” For Gibson and her staff that means focusing on marinades, lighter sauces, broiling, baking and steaming instead of frying, “but with really intense complimentary flavor so they don't miss the fat!” she says.
Consider her Citrus-Glazed Wild Alaska Salmon Salad. Tender, naturally sweet salmon is mopped with an intense orange glaze and broiled then served on tangy crisp arugula, with roasted earthy beets, creamy goat cheese and crunchy toasted almonds, all drizzled with a tangy fresh citrus juice vinaiagrette.
And that's just one delicious recipe to consider! So it seems, what's good for us, may just be the best thing for the planet.
Sustainable Seafood Sources
Tap into the resources below for up-to-date regulations and buying information.
Sourcing Seafood, A professionals Guide to Procuring Ocean-friendly Fish and Shellfish, 2nd edition, by Howard Johnson, Peter Redmayne and the Seafood Choices Alliance.
This alphabetical seafood guide includes conservation notes on each variety, seasonality, product form, buying tips, and health advisories, where applicable. The guide also includes a supplier directory, listed both by species and as an alphabetical index. (Also visit: www.seafoodchoices.org)
Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (www.alaskaseafood.org)
American Wild Shrimp (http://allamericanwildshrimp.com/)
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (www.FL-Seafood.com)
Global Seafood Alliance (www.gaalliance.org)
Marine Stewardship Council (www.msc.org)
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp)
Oceans Alive (www.oceansalive.org)
Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association (www.pcsga.org)
The Catfish Institute (http://catfishinstitute.com)
12 Questions to Ask Your Seafood Purveyor
- Do you and your suppliers have full traceability of your seafood products?
Do the seafood species you purchase have known sustainability resources?
Are you a member of the National Fisheries Institute?
Are you a member of the Gobal Aquaculture Alliance?
Do you have a seat at the Groundfish Forum (A trade association that represents 7 trawl companies that fish for flatfish such as rock sole, yellowfin sole, flathead sole, Atka mackerel, and Pacific cod in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska)?
How do your buyers know they are working with reputable suppliers?
Are your buyers specialized by species?
Is your purchasing team meeting on a regular basis to share market information?
How many years have your buyers been in the seafood business?
Are you selling net weight product?
Do you have documented product specifications to provide your suppliers?
What quality controls do you have in place? How are they enforced?
Source: Fishery Products International (FPI)