Vacherin chefs learn ‘what next’ for the best British fish

As the UK finally took the advice of Buck’s Fizz about ‘making your mind up’ over EU membership, Vacherin took the opportunity to visit the harbour, trawlers and skippers of Peterhead to learn about the practicalities, provenance and politics of getting the finest Scottish seafood from net to plate - particularly in the wake of the momentous findings of the referendum.

The study-trip from London’s square mile to the Aberdeenshire coast was timely because many in the fishing community had campaigned to vote in favour of leaving the EU and now must see what the future holds - although it may take many years for any changes to fishing regimes to be implemented. Vacherin’s priority is to understand how it can best serve the finest fish to its clients in the future.

Vacherin works with Marrfish - who hosted the trip. This family-run business guarantees to supply Vacherin’s chefs fish from boat to site in 24 hours; does not use a middleman; and packs and distributes the catch themselves to ensure full traceability and reduce unnecessary carbon emissions.

Marrfish is an example of how Vacherin works closely with all its suppliers to ensure that their practices align with Vacherin’s core values in regards to sustainability. For instance, they follow MSC guidelines to ensure that the fish they provide are sourced responsibly from plentiful stocks. The visit was a great opportunity for the chefs to see that in action.

Vacherin’s chefs met the skippers of boats who might fish for five days at a time; were briefed on the bureaucracy of responsible fishing practise; and witnessed the white-hot intensity of an auction for the best seafood on offer. Peterhead is home to the biggest white fish market in Europe - and a visit revealed an abundance of large cod, monkfish, halibut, turbot, haddock, and whiting.

Director of Food Dan Kelly said, “The trip to Scotland made the chefs appreciate the amount of work that goes into the whole process of bringing the finest seafood from the sea to the dining room. Forgive the pun, but they face an ocean of bureaucracy. For example, few people that we serve understand that UK fishermen regularly trade quotas of certain varieties of fish with the governing bodies of other countries!

“Likewise, understanding that some trawler men ‘hunt’ in pairs for specific varieties to find the very best fish we can eat is essential. When you can understand something, you have the chance of mastering it - that’s why we went.

“If - for example - we can source good quality cod cost-effectively, but not hake, then our clients have a right to know. Now I can tell them. It was also good to know that they stood in a highly competitive market during trading - standing right beside the same lemon sole that we served next day at one of our clients - Ince & Co.”