Pierre-Olivier Ferry comes from a long line of chefs: of the last five generations, only his father did not follow this career path. This was not the profession Ferry had initially intended for himself either, as he first studied in the field of hotel management. Nevertheless, he was eventually bitten by the cooking bug, and he thoroughly enjoys working with food and finding original ways to prepare it. After being involved in various areas of the food industry (catering, working on cruise ships, gourmet cooking), Ferry left his native Lanaudière for an internship at the Reford Gardens. He has never looked back, intrigued by the possibility of developing a unique cuisine using ingredients grown at the Gardens and, more recently, the products associated with the Smarter Seafood certification program. This is what he had to say:
Smarter Seafood is a certification program aimed at fish merchants and restaurant owners who are committed to the sustainable development of the St. Lawrence. The program promotes the sound management of marine resources by encouraging the consumption of a wide variety of marine species, allowing fishermen to diversify their catches. This will reduce the overfishing of certain species and at the same time, help fishermen develop markets for the more obscure or neglected species. In the past, for instance, if sculpin got caught in their nets, they would throw it back into the water. This fish, however, is very tender and has a subtle flavour. Now that demand for it exists, fishermen can earn an income from a species that had never before been exploited commercially.
We are rediscovering other fish that had long been neglected, such as herring or smelt, and finding new ways of preparing them. And this is not to mention fish that was only caught for one part, such as lumpfish: It is best known for its eggs, which are served as caviar, but its tasty flesh can also be eaten. This list also includes sea lettuce and kelp, two types of algae, and chickenclaws (also known as glasswort or samphire), a plant that grows along the coast.
At the Reford Gardens, we have been sensitive to environmental issues for a long time now. The Smarter Seafood program has introduced an exciting challenge: diversifying our menu while protecting the environment and supporting local fisheries. Another challenge is getting people interested in these products: they must be able to taste them and cook them as well. We are already noticing the effects on the industry. For example, mackerel deliveries were never consistent, but this fish is now more readily available, and whether it is fresh or frozen, filleted or not, the quality is there.
Working with so many different products is very stimulating. In fact, as soon as I received the 2010 list of certified species, I put aside my work to read it and almost immediately started brainstorming various combinations and presentations. I want to go even further, combining products of the sea with flowers, aromatic herbs, etc. It’s very exciting!To consult the list of edible species certified Smarter Seafood, visit this web page:www.exploramer.qc.ca/en/smarter-seafood