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'Bridging the seafood gulf'

Host chef Cole Thomas serves cockle poppers to guests

Aaron Gillespie from the Science Exchange preparing pan seared abalone

South Australian food scientists are taking a novel approach to ‘bridge the gulf’ between chefs and seafood producers.

“We want chefs to know the ‘story’ of seafood, to be proud to include it on their menus, and know how to sell it,” says Andrew Barber, Principal food scientist with the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI).

A recent study commissioned by Marine Innovation South Australia showed that 32% of the dishes offered in SA restaurants featured seafood. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that a large portion of that includes imported seafood products.

Delicious Yellowtail Kingfish

“South Australia has some of the best seafood in the world, yet many local chefs find it difficult to source high quality local seafood. Building relationships between producers and chefs, so chefs better understand the product and producers understand what chefs want, will get more South Australian seafood onto local restaurant plates,” said Dr Barber.

Killer cockle risotto

On Monday 30 August, 2010, more than 70 of SA’s top chefs, seafood producers and food scientists met in the Central Market Kitchen above Adelaide’s famous Central Market to talk all things seafood. Chef de cuisine Culinetic Cole Thomas, created mouth-watering seafood dishes to inspire invited chefs to consider the potential for undervalued seafood species such as sardines and cockles.

The Central Market Kitchen was abuzz as Chefs from the Star of Greece, Culinetic and the Art Gallery prepared a seafood feast As participants enjoyed cockle poppers, sardine spring rolls, cockle risotto, pan seared abalone, sardine salad, abalone sous vide and yellowtail kingfish, the results of comprehensive studies into who eats seafood and why were presented by researchers from the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing science.

Australian Seafood CRC Managing Director Len Stevens chats with Jarn Jamison and Nicole Jamison from Austar Seafood, Mark Cody, SA Aquaculture Council Dr Barber, who heads SARDI’s Food Innovation and Value Chain Program, says the real value of the SA seafood industry is potentially far greater than its current value of $791M (Gross Food Revenue including all domestic sales, interstate exports and international exports: 2008-2009 SA Food Scorecard Report).

Delicious pan seared abalone“It will grow if industry is prepared to work more closely with those who prepare the final products – South Australian chefs – and better understand what consumers really want.”

South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) sensory technologist Briony Liebich, highlighted the practical assistance of product profiling to help producers assess their products and more confidently deliver what chefs and consumers want. Sensational sardine spring roll An expert SARDI sensory panel for yellowtail kingfish and prawns has been recently ‘inducted’ to help characterise key components such as aroma, flavour and texture, compare the main differences between recipes, processes and storage trials and even recommend language to promote product features.

Chef Cole Thomas with Steve Mawer of Southern Barramundi Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science researcher, Dr Nick Danenberg, who also presented on the night, says there is significant room for growth in the consumption of seafood in SA with many challenges potentially overcome if the industry and chefs work together.

Research conducted by the marketing institute points to the ‘barriers and drivers’ relating to the purchase of seafood by chefs and the food service industry, and what it is that influences consumers in their choice of food in restaurants. A third study by Ehrenberg-Bass explores how consumers would respond to under-utilised and under-valued seafood products such as sardines, cockles, yellowtail kingfish and abalone served as gourmet dishes on restaurant menus.

Mouth-watering abalone sous vide“We found the ‘barriers’ for chefs in presenting seafood on their menus included seafood being perceived as hard to work with, a limited variety of species and excess waste. These hurdles may be overcome if industry and chefs work together Salacious sardine salad to better understand each other’s needs,” says Dr Danenberg. “For example, processors could source a wider variety of fish such as sardines and cockles which will also help deal with seasonal gaps. Wastage could be reduced by supplying only the parts of the fish the chefs require and the excess could be used to produce value-added products such as stocks and bisques,” he said.

“Another challenge is the training of upcoming apprentice chefs. Their seafood training has been reduced, and it may be that we can encourage more training at apprentice level and provide additional workshops and Masterclasses in seafood cuisine for young chefs.”

Tasty cockle poppersResearch into what influences consumer choices in a restaurant context considered everything from age to socio-economic status, their perceptions of seafood, how often various groups dined at restaurants and the chances of them ordering seafood on each visit, what their preferred seafood dishes were and what might sway them to eat more seafood.

This event was supported by the South Australian Food Centre, Flavour SA, Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science, Hentley Farm Barossa Valley Wines and Cole Thomas Culinary Solutions.

Sardine spring roll recipe

Sardines go from fish food to fine dinning (PDF 289 - taken from The Advertiser on the 7th September 2010)