On Monday, our Culinary Arts class spent our morning session at Red’s Best, a wholesale fish market located at the Boston Fish Pier. Monday was fish day, and our instructor for the day (Chef Jeremy Sewall) thought it would be a good idea for us to meet at the fish pier and tour Red’s Best.
Red’s is where Chef Sewell sources most of the seafood for his restaurants, which include Island Creek Oyster Bar and Row 34. I am new to Boston, so I am still learning about the dining scene. I do understand that these restaurants are very popular. My classmates told me I must go visit his restaurants, and I am looking forward to doing so. This is especially true after our day of discussing seafood. Chef Sewall talked about how he picks from the fresh seafood available, and then he crafts a menu based on that. I perused the menu online, and everything on it looks absolutely delicious. Who knows what it will actually be the day I get to go. I am hoping Chris and Andrew will visit at least one of his restaurants with me when they visit.
Chef Sewell knows so much about the fishing industry and departed some of his knowledge to us. He tries to promote and serve local fish, as he feels it is “the right thing to do.” He does have to supply what his customers want, but he is working hard to create a market for local seafood. He said he tries to make “responsible choices based on what is available.” The fishing industry is complicated. There are too many fishermen in the sea, so some species get overfished. That is why we have regulations to help keep a healthy population of fish.
At Red’s Best, we got a tour from Jamie. He went over some of these regulations, explaining how they work to help maintain a healthy fish population for each species. The goal of these regulations is to sustain the fish and the fishermen long term. I found this system to be quite interesting. I could tell that Jamie enjoys speaking about this topic. He did a great job with us.
We got to see a variety of dead fish, including monkfish. Apparently, Julia Child made monkfish popular in the U.S. We talk a lot about Julia Child because she was instrumental in building the program at BU. I have not had monkfish, but I have heard it is tasty. The flesh from the tail is what is eaten. You may recognize monkfish as the very ugly fish pictured below. You know they must really be ugly when even your textbook refers to them as “ugly fish.”
The work that Red’s Best does is rather fascinating. They buy directly from local fisherman. They primarily buy from small, day boats, and they guarantee them a living wage. This helps these smaller fishers sustain themselves against the large fishing boats. Red’s then sells what these fishermen catch, including to restaurants and schools.
These were described to us as “small” tuna.
Jamie talked about how the New England fishing waters are the most coveted in the world. The whole world wants our fish…well maybe with the exception of here in the U.S. We export 90% of the fish we catch in the country, and we import 89% of the fish we consume. This wild fact blew our minds, but then when you break it down, it makes sense.
In the U.S., we don’t eat a ton of fresh, wild fish. We eat mostly farmed seafood, like shrimp, salmon, and tilapia, and the majority of that production occurs overseas. Other countries, however, want the fresh fish we are catching. People in the U.S. are seemingly afraid to cook and eat fresh seafood. Places like Red’s are working to change that.
Jamie spoke about how they do outreach with some public schools. They have grants to pay fishermen to not fish for a day so they can bring them into schools to speak to the kids. They have them bring in fish, like monkfish, and let the kids play with them. I love the idea of getting kids interested in fresh seafood. As Jamie put it, if give kids the expectation of eating fresh, local seafood, then they will continue to eat fresh local seafood as adults; if you give them frozen fish sticks, then they will have that as their idea of seafood as an adult. Especially in New England, we should be basking in the plethora of fresh seafood available to us.
I look forward to exploring this myself. Jamie was highly encouraging everyone to buy local fish. I am not grocery shopping much right now. Between work and this class, I am kept well-fed. However, I do want to explore the world of New England seafood.