Episode 49: Spot Prawns & Behind the Plexi
Spot Prawn Season is Here!
This year’s spot prawn festival is happening a little differently.
Guests Darren Clay, president of the Chef’s Table Society and Chef with UBC Food Services, and Chef Robert Clark, founding member of the Chef’s Table Society and the Spot Prawn Festival (launching May 14), recent recipient of the Order of Canada and new Chief Culinary Officer at Organic Ocean, discuss the 2021 Spot Prawn Festival.
As Chef Rob puts it, there is “nothing more exciting than spot prawns!” For year 17 of the festival, Daniel and Rob want to celebrate spot prawns, to show that even during a pandemic, there can be silver linings.
In the past, before the festival, 97-98% of BC spot prawns were exported. The only ones that were kept in BC were those of a lower quality, therefore unable to be exported. This was the whole reason the spot prawn festival started – Rob believed that British Columbians should have access to these wonderful prawns, and that the prawns should be promoted as a local BC product. All the organizations involved with the festival, and the restaurant industry itself, have helped to elevate the product, and account for a large portion of the fresh catch coming in to Vancouver. A success story all around!
It has become a part of the Vancouver food culture that May means spot prawns season. Now most of the spot prawns we eat are local, and not from somewhere far away.
Becoming a big Vancouver event, thousands of people show up to the festival every year. Huge lines are formed at Fisherman’s Wharf in Steveston. Each year, more and more fishermen can sell their prawns direct to customers, a market that the festival helped to create. It’s no longer about promoting the product, it’s about celebrating it. People no longer need to be introduced to the product – they know and love them! In France, asparagus is celebrated as the beginning of the spring season. It’s the same here – spot prawns are a beautiful, local product to be celebrated. This is how our food culture has turned, to more local products, and to local retailers.
The festival, which had to be missed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will be held virtually as an online spot prawn cooking class, on May 29th, 2021, for a safe and pandemic-friendly festival alternative. The prawns will also be available at many local retailers, meaning that the public will be able to support local fishing or fishmonger businesses with their purchases. It will be possible to pick up spot prawns from some CSA style boxes; restaurants can help Chefs get these ingredients into the hands of consumers.
Consisting of thee different spot prawn recipes, from three different Chefs around the province, Rob and Darren are hoping that this will be more accessible to spot-prawn lovers from all over British Columbia.
Ned Bell from the Naramata Inn, a champion of sustainability will be doing one course, Angus An, from Vancouver, with restaurants including Maenam and Freebird, will be doing another, and a Chef’s Table board member, Ken Nakano, from the Inn at Laurel Point will be doing the third.
Additionally, the festival will be making a spot prawn chowder, available frozen from Legends Haul and Organic Ocean. With no wheat and no dairy, the spot prawn is inclusive for many eaters! With a tomato base, the chowder of course has that beautiful spot prawn flavour, with corn, potatoes, parsley, and fennel.
People can buy tickets online, get a link to the class, and a list of suppliers around the province carrying spot prawns. There will also be a social media push from the festival with Chefs around the province showing off their spot prawn cooking. More info from spotprawnfestival.com!
Now, this year, spot prawns have been thrown into a hot debate. In March, the DFO declared that the sale of spot prawns frozen-at-sea would be illegal – a huge part of spot prawn sales. Listen to our earlier episode to hear more about the issue.
Behind the Plexi Fundraises for the Hospitality Industry
We chatted with Shelley MacArthur, founder of Breaking Bread Now, and Brad Roark, co-owner of Nook and Oddfish restaurants, to discuss their new photography fundraiser to support the hospitality industry.
An extremely collaborative effort, the project started after Brad learned of a similar idea from friend and Chef, Jody Shapiro, of the Antler Restaurant in Toronto. After getting Shapiro’s go-ahead, Brad partnered Shelley to launch the project. “Let’s see if people want to buy some things and support the industry!” said Brad.
Titled “Behind the Plexi,” the photography fundraiser works by providing people with a behind the scenes glimpse as to what its like working in a restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The photos from these four photographers are being sold individually, printed by John Goldsmith, a local printer. The prints will be available in 16×20 archival quality prints, perfect for a special memento. Each print s $200 – a steal for these photographers!
Restaurants photographed include everywhere from small, tiny cafes to higher profile restaurants, such as the beloved Argo Cafe, La Quercia, Tavola, Dynasty Seafood, Beetbox, Medina, and many more! There are thirty-three participating restaurants in total.
Funds raised from this project will go to scholarships for restaurant workers the have been affected due to COVID-19. One is going to the Chinese Restaurant Awards Scholarship at VCC, the other is going to the BC Hospitality Foundation. This is for anyone that wants to level up their skills or learn something new, and who lost their hospitality job during the pandemic.
Maybe one day the photos will be available in a book, or at an exhibition. How cool?!
Get more info at breakingbreadnow.com.