Hooked on freshness

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Joe Lutrario reports on a new scheme by supplier M&J Seafood to make it easier for chefs to get sustainable seafood onto their menus Peach Pub...

Joe Lutrario reports on a new scheme by supplier M&J Seafood to make it easier for chefs to get sustainable seafood onto their menus

Peach Pub Company has bolstered its eco-friendly credentials through a pilot scheme with fresh-fish supplier M&J Seafood.

The Scottish Skippers Scheme links the kitchen of the Three Fishes, near Oxford, to Scottish fishermen at sea. Communicating by email, head chef Corin Earland is able to assess and order a selection of environmentally-sound fish and have it delivered to the pub quickly. He says: "It's a revolutionary idea and something that I'm proud to be involved with."

There are two key benefits — the boats do not have to throw any fish back and the chef can plan menus well in advance, safe in the knowledge that a fresh product is guaranteed to arrive. The scheme also aims to drastically reduce the amount of time fish takes to get to the kitchen and gives unrivalled traceability. It is accredited by the Responsible Fishing Scheme, which hands out certificates to vessels that fish within EU quotas.

The Oxfordshire-based pubco hopes to tap into growing consumer interest in sustainability and provenance, and the Fishes now puts leaflets on tables detailing the names of the Scottish fishermen who brought in the pub's latest catch, with pictures of their fishing boats.

Lee Cash, joint founder of Peach, says that he first got turned on to the sourcing of highquality, ethically-sound food while working under Raymond Blanc at Petit Blanc. "It's not the cheapest way of doing things, but I'm passionate about the quality of our food and minimising Peach's impact on the environment.

"Getting involved in this pilot project gives

us a direct link to fishermen who are catching fish in a responsible manner. Our customers really appreciate this and support our efforts," he says.

The initiative resonates with high-profile campaigns from the likes of Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who recently threw the issue of food ethics, sourcing and quality into the media spotlight.

M&J Seafood, part of foodservice distributor Brakes, is in talks with other operators and plans to roll out the concept nationally. Six boats are involved in the scheme, but M&J wants to sign six more by the end of the year.

The development of the scheme has been funded by M&J and Seafish, the Government-backed body charged with promoting seafood quality and sustainability. Peach is in the process of introducing the scheme to two other sites, the Fleece at Whitney, in Oxfordshire, and the Rose & Crown, in Warwick, but plans to introduce it to all seven of its pubs.

Mike Berthet, group director of fish and seafood at M&J, who spearheaded the idea, says: "The skippers hold the last day's catch fresh on ice, to ensure that our customers are guaranteed a top-quality product.

"They agree to handle and store it with

the utmost care, so that quality and taste are not compromised, and to provide restaurant customers with the best seafood that Scotland has to offer."

The fresh fish is delivered through M&J's national transport network, and Berthet and his team are in the process of streamlining the logistics. He says: "The fish is currently going from Peterhead to our distribution centre in Grimsby, but we're looking to cut out Grimsby to get the product into kitchens faster."

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