1 Feb, 2011 @ 09:00
2 mins read

Sergi Arola: My moral debt to the sea

ONE of Spain’s leading chefs has told the Olive Press that he is practically taking fish off the menu.

Sergi Arola, the man behind Madrid’s hip two Michelin star restaurant Gastro, explained how people are going to have to stop eating the obvious species if they are to have any chance of survival.

“Forget eating tuna, monkfish, or sea bass,” he explained over dinner in his charming bistro-style restaurant in central Madrid. “Why do people always have to go for the same fish?

“I have taken them all off the menu, which is anything but easy for a top restaurant.”

Indeed, at Gastro you only have two fish choices on the menu and one is his famous risotto.

“I never serve sea bass and fish like monkfish which are really now in danger,” continued Arola, who trained under Spain’s most famous chef Ferran Adria, in Catalonia. “While five years ago there would be a choice of five or six fishes on the menu, today we keep the choice very limited.”

Instead, he says diners and other restaurateurs should look for less fashionable fish to eat.

“There are lots of wild fish around. Just look for something new. And oily fish such as sardines and herrings are great.

“We have a moral debt to the sea and my fellow chefs in Spain are going to have to start doing the same or there will simply be no fish left.”

In particular, he is very careful where to source ingredients such as smoked salmon, which he will only buy from the US or Canada. “We used to get it from Norway, but I am no longer convinced that it is either wild or sustainable. It is the same in Scotland. It is so hard to get real, genuine wild salmon.”

Now a member of both the World Wildlife Fund and Oceana, an organisation that is working hard to protect the oceans, he is a particular critic of shark-finning (see over) and the overfishing of blue fin tuna.

He is also quick to criticise the supermarkets for not giving enough information about the fish that they serve.

“But ultimately as chefs I feel we have to promote the new movement towards sustainability, in order to encourage the supermarkets and fisherman to fall in line.

“If we can get the public to change their tastes, the markets will ultimately follow.”

He is also a keen advocate of seasonal produce, changing the menu monthly at his fashionable restaurant.

The vast majority of his vegetables are local, while only a small amount of the fruit is imported.

“It is important to be more than seasonal. Most of our vegetables change by the month.

“We try to use mushrooms only at certain times of year, as we would use oranges or, say green beans.

“It is perhaps obvious but sustainability is a matter of common sense. We should be respecting the seasons, not just in the case of fish, but for all products.

“It doesn’t make any sense to have fillet steak all year round, and we shouldn’t be able to eat red bream or hake whenever we feel like it,” he said. “I don’t use the same types of tomato or lettuce all the time either.”

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