“All drains lead to the ocean…”

Here fishy fishy...

Here fishy fishy…

Parts of a fish!

Parts of a fish!

“All drains lead to the ocean…” sound familiar? Surprisingly enough, our chef related lesson one of Fish class back to the beloved Pixar classic, Finding Nemo.

I’ll be honest.  After the first day of fish I was not excited.  I had fish scales sticking to my neck and forearms and I couldn’t feel my toes walking up the stairs because the class is kept at 20 degrees (talk about balance issues).

However, a week later, countless showers and a container of Oxi-Clean later, I really began to enjoy the class.  Yes, I still found myself flaking random fish scales off of my face and my fingers felt like brittle icicles hours after leaving class…but it’s nothing a Cafe Mocha couldn’t fix.

Atlantic Farm-Raised Salmon

(From left to right): Atlantic Farm-raised Salmon, Steelhead Trout, Arctic Char, Farm-rasied Rainbow Trout

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Atlantic Farm-raised Salmon and Farm-raised Rainbow Trout

During the Fabrication portion of the block we were responsible for un-burrying the fish in the walk in cooler before class (or digging all of the fish out from the mounds of ice in the cooler).  Afterwards we scaled the fish and weighed it all out in order to prepare it for the day orders.  The fish we fabricate in class is sent out to all the kitchens and restaurants in the school.  For this reason, some Chefs consider it to be the first production kitchen at the school.

Once the fish was scaled and cleaned we went on to the identification and tasting portion of the class. Each day of the block our daily tasting was focused on specific families of seafood. First we identified several trays of fish organized by family: the Salmon/Trout family, Bass/Snapper/Grouper family, Cod family, Flat Fish family and miscellaneous family. Then we tasted lightly seasoned, baked seafood.  Talk about a a breakfast of Champions…a seafood buffet at 7:00 AM gets some getting used to.

The remainder of class, after the tasting, was spent fabricating fish.  The two major cuts for fish are referred to as a straight cut (used for hard boned fish) and an up and over cut (used for medium and soft boned fish).  We also briefly covered flat cut (for flat fish) and butterflying (leaving the head and tail in tact, but removing all of the bones).

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Scaling and washing fish.

Headed and gutted halibut

Headed and gutted Halibut

Flat fish and cartilaginous (boneless) fish

Flat fish and cartilaginous (boneless) fish.

Halibut, Turbot, Witch Flounder,  Winter Flounder (or Lemon Sole), Monkfish tail and Skate wing

Halibut, Turbot, Witch Flounder, Winter Flounder (or Lemon Sole), Monkfish tail and Skate wing

Cod family: (front) Atlantic Cod, Hake

Cod family: (front) Atlantic Cod, Hake

Salmon and trout family

Salmon and trout family

Turbot (back) and Dover Sole (front)

Turbot (back) and Dover Sole (front)

Pollock, Haddock (large and small)

Pollock, Haddock (large and small)

Filling the daily orders for the kitchens.  Since I have morning classes we put together orders for the night/dinner classes.  The students who have fish at night put together the orders for the following day's lunch service.

Filling the daily orders for the kitchens. Since I have morning classes we put together orders for the night/dinner classes. The students who have fish at night put together the orders for the following day’s lunch service.

These fish are primarily used for identification and tastings in class.  The majority of seafood served at the school is salmon, rainbow trout, flounder, cod/hake, and mussels.

These fish are primarily used for identification and tastings in class. The majority of seafood served at the school is salmon, rainbow trout, flounder, cod/hake, and mussels.

The following pictures are some of the tasting plates we tried during fabrication.  This plate from the top black mark clockwise includes:

The following pictures are some of the tasting plates we tried during fabrication. This plate from the top black mark clockwise includes: Flounder, Turbot, Haddock, Pollock, Halibut, Atlantic Farm-Rasied Salmon, Arctic Char (my favorite on the tasting), Steelhead Trout and Rainbow Trout (center).

Shellfish day: (black mark going clockwise) Black Tiger Shrimp

Shellfish day: (black mark going clockwise) Black Tiger Shrimp, Pink Shrimp, White Shrimp, Langoustine, Blue Crab, Jonah Crab, lobster claw meat and lobster tail meat.

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(Top left to bottom left): Steamer Clams, Sea Scallop, Bay Scallop, Blue Mussel, Topneck Clam

I was very out of my element learning how to shuck oysters and clams.

I was very out of my element learning how to shuck oysters and clams.

I was not expecting to find the lectures for fish particularly different from the typical lectures given in our kitchen classes. However, I found that they were some of the most fascinating and engaging lectures at the school.  We covered a broad range of common fish species (characteristics/location), fishing methods, farming methods and cooking methods.

I was impressed that the lectures were extremely current with the sustainability issues surrounding wild and farmed fish.  Every lecture was heavily centralized on today’s industry and what we can do now to improve seafood sustainability for future generations. Sustainable fishing refers to the amount of fish that can be removed from the ocean without affecting the populations reproductive rate or damaging their environment.

Sustainable fish farming and fishing is hugely controversial. There is no one right or wrong solution. Some fish farms are good while some are harmful.  Just like fishing methods – some good, some bad.  Some species of fish are endangered while other species are plentiful.  The best solution is to understand the source of your fish. This is not necessarily easy when you are standing at the grocery store fish counter.  To keep up with the best options for sustainable fish options click on this link for a helpful website.

Here are some facts relating current fish farming and fishing from our lecture:

  • If we keep fishing and farming at the rate we are now, without making sustainable efforts, we will deplete our fish sources completely by 2048.
  • 2/3 of the world’s fisheries are overexploited or depleted.
  • It takes 2-5 pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of farmed salmon. This means that we actually need to fish more smaller fish in order to raise one larger fish for consumption. This demonstrations that farmed fish does not equate to sustainable. 
  • 15% of global seafood is processed yearly for fishmeal to feed farmed fish.
  • Approximately 98% of all Atlantic Salmon currently being consumed comes from aquaculture net pen operations in Canada, Chile, Norway and other producer countries. In order to be self-sustained we need to consume more fish raised in our own country.
  • Farmed seafood makes up about 1/3 of the seafood consumed in the U.S.
Please stay posted for more updates on life at the CIA 🙂