Eel Releases and Dartmouth Food Fest News

Just about to start my hols but before I do I thought I ought to jot down a few notes about what’s been keeping us busy these last few weeks.

July was definitely the month of elver releases. As many of you already know, in Gloucestershire we had about a dozen schools taking part in our tanks in school scheme which involved children feeding a tank of elvers for several months while learning about the history of elver fishing and the environmental and natural challenges that face these fascinating fish. As term time came to an end it was time for the elvers to be released to the wild as part of Severn and Wye’s “sustainable eel” restocking programme. Every school had its own river release location and we are grateful to all the chefs who came down and freely gave up their time for these releases. In the theatre they say never work with animals and children. Well I think we dispelled that myth and showed that this is a great way to get children involved in understanding where food comes from. The enthusiasm and excitement displayed at the releases meant the teachers were all insistent that they have a tank again next year. We now know we have a winning scheme and Richard has plans to issue 100 tanks next year.

After several of these releases “The Amalgamated Union of Master Elver Men” AUMEN had its first meeting, chefs and helpers who have made outstanding contributions to our tanks in school scheme may be invited to join. Please no pleading letters.

A special mention must be made of Matt Tebbutt who on hearing about our scheme insisted on putting two tanks into schools in Wales and one in his restaurant “The Foxhunter” at Nantaderry . He also took responsibility for promoting the scheme in the Welsh press and in no time at all The Western Mail and BBC Wales were covering the story. More stories I am told are forthcoming and a celebratory eel dinner is planned for later this year. Matt’s membership of the AUMEN will be considered at its next meeting, we can only hope it will be viewed favourably. More elver releases later this year, and one planned for London but more about that next month.

Although the wild salmon season was slow to get going we are now seeing a really good stock of wild fish coming through. Even more important an abundance of stock means prices are more realistic than they have been for a number of years. So, anyone interested in fresh or smoked wild fish don’t be shy, pick up the phone and ask for a price. August and perhaps the beginning of September we will see some tip top wild but once we get into September the condition of the fish will decline dramatically, then is the time to take wild off the menu.

For those wanting an alternative to wild then why not try our farmed Var Salmon, a firm favourite with our discerning customers looking for something different. Again pick up the phone and ask for a quote for fresh or smoked or you may fancy a menu promotion which we are always willing to discuss.

I think it’s a fair criticism that we don’t get out enough so we thought we would have a go at this food festival malarkey. Abergavenny seemed to be all booked up (or they didn’t want us) but Dartmouth have welcomed us with open arms. So the plan is to build a mini smokehouse or some kind of BBQ opposite Mitch Tonk’s restaurant during the food festival 21st -23rd October. Hope to see some of you down there but more about that and what we will be offering nearer the time.

Tania Steytler has just refreshed our menu offering which has prompted several favourable reviews in the local press, well done Tania - we must refresh ourselves more often.

Some of you may already be familiar with the Scottish tones of Graeme Jackson who has recently joined our sales team. Graeme has been working in the wholesale salmon industry for the last 15 years and in food service for 10 years before that. Graeme isn’t your archetypical Scot, he doesn’t drink whisky or play golf, but I am assured he buys a round of drinks when pressed. Graeme will be responsible for introducing and cementing our business relationships with fish wholesalers nationwide and we wish him well.

It’s always great to get any feedback to my musings and for those of you who are into this media self- help group you can always follow our rants and comments on twitter (severnwye).

Dai Francis