Described as a ‘nose to tail fish supplier’, Rich Adams is the processor behind Forgotten Fish; the supplier putting industry waste onto the table. Forgotten Fish offers unused, unknown, and underrated cuts of fish; carving out a new niche in the world of food waste.
It may sound a little out-there, but some of Rich’s delicacies are Basque Country-inspired. And hey, if it’s good enough for the Basque Country – a place with the highest per capita concentration of Michelin star restaurants in the world – then it’s good enough for us.
It kind of came about by accident really! I started experimenting and cutting up things I’d not seen eaten before, and thought ‘well, there’s a lot of meat on that and it looks good, so I’ll try it and cook it!’
It’s becoming more and more prominent – we’ve seen it happening in the meat industry and even with vegetables; like roasting the leaves of a beetroot. No one had really been doing it with fish, so it’s a really relevant niche. Sometimes chefs will put pollack collars on the special’s board, for example, but I don’t think anyone’s gone into the industry to see what can be done with in-house processing. So I’ve just been saving what I can from the bin and offering it to the chefs.
I’ve started by targeting restaurants with premium products, but I think there’s room for it across the board.
It does tend to be quite labour-intensive as it’s a lot of cutting for quite a small piece! Taking a whole fillet off a fish takes the same time as it does for me to cut a cheek – but a fillet is half the weight of the fish! So it is quite a bit of processing but, when you think about it, it’s something for nothing. That resource has already been caught, so if you add a bit of time into the processing, then you’ve got more food and less waste from resources that you’ve already got.
A lot of flavour is lost in the filleting process. You’ll have a beautiful turbot that’s landed in Newlyn and then processed, when actually that fish is so nice to cook whole, and easier to cook too.
There’s a lot more waste inherent in filleting. It may look like some kind of perfect loin of fish – but where’s the other bit on the side gone?! Whilst it makes it easier for the consumer to tackle it as a meal, it takes the whole thing out of context and people become too detached from where the food actually comes from. That fish has got a head and eyes and bones – they don’t come in a packet, perfectly prepared for your convenience. But then maybe that’s just me as a kind of foodie/ex-chef.
Just to be contrary, I actually think that it would be a better situation if we could educate consumers to not want things so processed.
There’s upsides to processing; for example transport costs are lower. But if you’re looking at maximising what we’ve got, processing minimises that. Although I guess what I’m doing would be redundant if people were eating whole fish!! I think the problem with some processing is that when you go really far down that road you’re talking pre-portioned pieces that have been vac-packed. You’re adding in more packaging and more waste on another level.
I think my cooking experience was more inspired by travel than from working in kitchens. So one of the first things I started selling was hake throats as they’re delicacies in the Basque Country in Spain. We process so much hake that once you get your fillets, the rest gets thrown away. In Shoreditch, there’s a Basque restaurant called Brat that wanted to serve hake off-cuts on the menu – as is the style in Basque country – but they didn’t want to import it. When I had a look at the menu I got in touch with them, and that’s where it all started!
After that I did a lot more experimentation with things like monkfish liver, or ray tails. With ray, you cut them down the middle – which takes quite a bit of work because they’ve got quite thick skin and spines down the whole back – but chefs are pretty keen and they’ve sold really well.
With a big species like a ray you just treat it like a bit of meat really – it’s a big animal and there are quite a lot of parts to it. But ones of a bigger size – you get the cheeks, the tails, the bellies, there’s a bit on the underside – I don’t even know what to call half of these things! What’s interesting is that although they might sound really weird, they’re pretty approachable. A lot of them have already had the bones and skin removed, so even though they sound weird, they’re pretty saleable.
I’m now connecting to some of the best chefs in the country! The aim is that those chefs can then be ambassadors for re-using fish waste, if they start writing recipes there will be more awareness nationwide.
People play it quite safe and it takes a while for things to happen. I think a lot of it starts with chefs and then evolves to getting sold in supermarkets… but I don’t know what it is that makes that change so definite. There’s definitely been efforts made over the years of people trying to sell these lesser-known species, but I think we’re quite selective about what we eat. Elsewhere it’s freshness you’re looking for, not species – which I think is the way fish should be sold, but obviously we’re much more driven here by market demand.
Sardines are another good example of what’s changed here – we sell a lot within the UK. Again, we still send quite a lot away – but that’s just because we’ve got a good product. If Cornish sardines are good enough to ship to France where they’ve got a history of eating a lot of it, then that’s a success story as it’s getting used. Exports aren’t always a bad thing.
Buying daily from the market! Again it depends on the species as to how fresh it is. Things like hake and sardines tend to be pretty good – hake boats do slightly shorter trips and sardines go out every night so that the fish are super fresh all the time. There’s quite a lot of handline fishing in Newlyn, catching things like pollock and mackerel which is really good.
Fish is so much easier to cook than most things. It’s a lot easier than meat – you just don’t cook it for too long and you can’t go wrong.
Whole flat fish on the bone; you get more out of it! It’s a shame to fillet such a beautiful fish like turbot or brill. It’s a nice thing to put at a table, too – it makes a great centerpiece!
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