Silla Bjerrum, Feng Sushi
Danish by birth, Silla Bjerrum spent childhood holidays by the sea in Denmark. It was then that Silla learned the simple pleasure of good locally sourced food, and seafood in particular. This important lesson informs everything she does as a restaurateur and chef.
Silla co-found Feng Sushi with Jeremy Rose in 1999, and there are seven restaurants in the chain. Seasonality and sustainability are key to the menu at Feng Sushi. Silla supports sustainable fish farming and is active in the dialogue about the future of fish and fish farming.
In 2012 Feng Sushi won the City of London Corporation Sustainable City Award in the food category, with the 2012 awards focusing on restaurants and fish sustainability.
Why do you think sustainable fish is important?
Ensuring the future supply of fish is very important. Eating fish can be a component of a healthy lifestyle. Future generations rely on us to pass on healthy seas and maintain biodiversity.
What inspired you to take action on sustainable fish?
I was buying and preparing a lot of salmon, fillets as they got bigger and bigger. There were a lot of marks on the flesh from bruising and vaccination. I decided to go and see the supplier. It was a beautiful setting in the Scottish Highlands, but the fish was packed tight like battery chickens. It was clear that the fish welfare was not correct.
And what have you done as a result?
Starting with salmon and tuna 12 years ago, we have gradually worked through all our species aiming at sourcing all 20 species on the menu from as sustainable a source as possible.
You recently opened a new unit at Billingsgate Fish Market delivering into Canary Wharf. What drew you to the market?
Supporting the London wholesale markets is important to me. Billingsgate has a mixed reputation, however there are some very good suppliers in the market. We wanted to deliver to E14 and E16, so being part of the market made sense. We hope to develop ideas for a pop-up restaurant over the next few months and eventually adding an eat-in section to our Billingsgate operation.
Was opening at a market that sells both sustainable and unsustainable fish a difficult decision?
Currently we buy our fish for the site in Billingsgate from the market, but I hope to take more fish for the whole group from there. I am optimistic that by buying more fish from the market we will help create demand, leading to more merchants stocking only sustainable fish.
How would you like to see Billingsgate Fish Market and Londoners' relationship with it develop?
It is a prime piece of land just next to Europe’s largest finance centre, with great potential. The market has a great history and I would love to see it evolving not only to be a market for fresh whole fish, but include restaurants and cafés serving the local residents and Canary Wharf workers.
What would you say to someone in a similar business to yours, to inspire them to buy or serve sustainable fish?
What would you say to a restaurant that hasn't yet tackled the issue of sustainable fish?
Firstly, ensure that you serve no endangered spices. Thereafter, tackle the bigger items, the fish you use a lot of for your most popular dishes. Tell your customers why your are changing the menu, and if you have to increase the price why you are doing so. You are likely to be surprised - in my experience, your customers will support you.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Fish Fight
I have been travelling around the UK meeting fishermen, marine conservationists, politicians, supermarkets bosses, and of course fish-eating members of the public. It has changed the way I think about fish.
Raymond Blanc OBE, Chef Patron, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Good ethics should be part of everyday business. Many restaurants and caterers in this are helping to protect our precious marine resources. They should get rightful recognition and inspire others to do the same.
Rosie Boycott, London Food Board
Taking a sustainable approach to fish is critical to the food security of our city. It is shocking to think that within our lifetimes, we could lose some of our favourite species from the seas forever.