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Paul Merrett, Chef

Paul Merrett, ChefPaul Merrett is Chef and Joint Owner of The Victoria in South West London, which has a Public House, Dining Room and Hotel. Paul can be seen most days cooking in The Victoria's kitchen.

Paul also dedicates time to School Food Matters, a campaign to raise the importance of food in schools and encourage kids to try cooking healthy and nutritious meals.

Paul explains why he thinks sustainable fish is so important and what he has done.


Why do you think sustainable fish is important?

Man's desire to eat well must never endanger or even affect the general ecology of the natural world. I think we often forget the 'wider picture' as we open a tin of tuna for supper.

The whole balance of the ocean can be (indeed is being) affected by our greed. Once this balance is jolted, the recovery is anything but guaranteed.

What inspired you to take action on sustainable fish?

My dad is a marine biologist - his last official position was as Head of Lower Vertebrates and Fish research at The Natural History Museum. Although now retired, he still takes an active interest in all things 'fishy' from the discovery of a new species right through to the content of his son's menu!

I remember him giving me long and worthy lectures about eating alternative sustainable varieties of fish even back in the 1970s. Before he retired he wrote a book about the impact that over-fishing is having on the species that live in deeper waters - the effect covers the whole ocean. He would simply refuse to eat at my restaurant if I were flogging monkish, skate, swordfish etc.

And what have you done as a result?

I take a keen interest in the sourcing of every product I use, both at home and in the restaurants. When it comes to fish, the Marine Conservation Society website has valuable up to date information for those not related to marine biologists! At the restaurant we work hard on training so that our staff are able to sell pollock in place of cod.

What would you say to a restaurant who is interested in serving sustainable fish?

I would encourage any restaurant to take an interest in sustainable fish sourcing. In fact, I find it staggering that any chef would not be interested. I really believe that there is also a commercial value to going the 'sustainable' route. More and more customers are proving to be well-informed about such issues and they are prepared to try 'different' fish and indeed pay a little more for line caught species.

What would you say to someone in a similar business to yours, to inspire them to supply sustainable fish?

As a chef and lover of good food I see it as a responsibility of ours as a restaurant to respond to the issues surrounding food such as Fairtrade, air miles, ethical husbandry and of course sustainable fishing.

What would you say to a business that hasn't yet tackled the issue of sustainable fish. 

Get involved or get left behind - I honestly think that the time is fast approaching where there will be overwhelming customer demand for every restaurant to declare their support on all food fronts. Indeed legislation is also looming, which I would welcome too.

Find out more about Paul Merrett's approach to food, and The Victoria Dining Room, at: www.thevictoria.net/food.htm

 

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.

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