Funding of almost £95k has been awarded to Seafish, the public body supporting the £10bn UK seafood industry, by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The funding is to support an innovative “Marketing Seafood Through Education” initiative, known as MaSTE, and is the first of its kind in the UK.
The project aims to get more local seafood on menus across Northern Ireland by working with catering colleges and home economics teachers to improve seafood knowledge and skills. This ‘bottom-up’ approach to marketing seafood will see over 600 student chefs and 400 home economics teachers and Chef Lecturers trained over the next two years.
It will be delivered through seafood masterclasses using locally sourced seafood providing information on preparation, quality, cookery, responsible sourcing, economics, seasonality, availability and the local seafood industry.
The masterclasses will be taught by the skilled seafood chefs and experts of the Mourne Seafood Bar and Belfast Cookery School and delivered both in the Cookery School and in colleges across Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the launch of the project at the Belfast Cookery School, Dr Lynn Gilmore, Seafish Northern Ireland Manager said “People should be eating two portions of fish a week as part of a healthy diet but there is a mystery around seafood and many people are unsure on how to prepare, handle or cook it. There is also widespread confusion about how to identify freshness and quality. This, alongside the relatively high cost of seafood and concerns around waste, are further potential barriers to chefs having a wider seafood offering on restaurant menus.
“With restaurants being the place where many consumers try new foods it is imperative that to promote local seafood, local chefs and trainee chefs get the necessary training to ensure cooking a piece of fish or lobster comes as naturally as roasting a chicken.”
The project will be run by the Belfast Cookery School and managed and overseen by Seafish Northern Ireland and the Seafish Northern Ireland Advisory Committee. It will be delivered in partnership with all the local catering colleges to train both student chefs and provide CPD classes to college chef lecturers. The CCEA (the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment) will ensure classes are also made available to Home Economics teachers from across Northern Ireland.
Bob McCoubrey who is a partner in the Mourne Seafood Bar and Cookery School and a marine biologist by trade said “We are delighted to partner with Seafish, DAERA and local colleges and schools on this fantastic project and to help to promote the amazing local seafood upon which we have built our business. The classes we deliver will focus on practical skills and provide the knowledge needed to ensure a new generation of talented seafood chefs across Northern Ireland, as well as bringing greater awareness of fish into many homes in Northern Ireland”
Dr John Speers, Head of Marine and Fisheries in DAERA said “This innovative approach of Marketing Seafood Through Education is one that my Department fully supports. We hope the participants of this project leave the masterclasses well versed on the quality of local seafood and knowledgeable about how best to serve it in their future careers.”