We’ve been helping fishers to catch the invasive lionfish which are destroying Saint Lucia’s reefs but that’s only half the story. Our team has also been working hard to stimulate demand from hotels and tourists – and that means helping chefs know exactly how to prepare this versatile and surprisingly tasty fish.
I’ve just returned from a Lionfish workshop for Chefs and Hotel Managers in Saint Lucia organised by the Saint Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association (SLHTA) and financed by the Saint Lucia Tourism Enhancement Fund. Opening the workshop, I gave a talk on lionfish and the dangers they pose to the native reef wildlife and how catching and eating them can reduce their numbers. This approach is being successfully implemented in other Caribbean islands and turns out to be a win-win model – benefiting conservation while also providing a food source for people and a livelihood for local fishers.
Daniel Medar from the Department of Fisheries went on to give a practical training session to show how to safely handle, de-spine, and filet these fish. A few of the myths were debunked – for example we explained the flesh of the fish is completely safe and not poisonous (they just have venomous spines that simply need to be removed). There’s nothing like practical learning, so our participants were then given lionfish to prepare for themselves.
A specialist chef from the Royalton made beautiful sushi out of the freshly filleted raw lionfish and I was able to try a tasty fillet cooked with quinoa. I’ve been a lifetime vegetarian but was inspired to try lionfish knowing that by eating it, I’d be helping to conserve the reef. This was my first taste of fish since the age of five – it was fantastic!
As a result of taking the course, everybody felt they had increased their knowledge and practical skills for preparing lionfish and 92% felt more motivated to serve lionfish in their hotels. Here’s some of their feedback…
And many pledged to make positive changes after the course…
The great cook-off
The next day marked the final of the Chefs in Schools Culinary Competition. This is an annual competition that the SLHTA runs for 15-16-year olds who are studying food and hygiene. The final three teams were invited to a ‘cook-off’ where they were given a basket of mystery ingredients and were asked to come up with a dish to create on the spot. The main mystery ingredient was…you guessed it… lionfish! (using the filets prepared in the training the day before). The students came up with attractive and seriously tasty inventions, showing again just how versatile the fish can be. A panel of top chefs voted Soufriere School to be the winning team who will now be going to Barbados for the next stage of the competition. I’d like to offer my congratulations to the winners and my thanks to everyone who made these two days so stimulating and inspiring.
Download their winning Recipe