We dined at a variety of casual and upscale restaurants in St John’s, each committed to serving local and sustainable seafood. Meet our hosts:
Roary MacPherson, executive chef, Sheraton Hotel
“I grew up on a farm in Highlands, Newfoundland, and I’ve been in the culinary industry for 27 years. My philosophy around seafood is: Fresh is best. Also, every piece of the fish should be utilized, not just the higher-end portions.
At the Sheraton, we get rave reviews for our seafood platter. We use a very simple preparation: pan-frying with no marinades, so you get the true flavour of the fish. It’s a real representation of Newfoundland.
I’d love to see more local restaurants going beyond salmon and cod and using more diverse species like turbot, yellowtail, flounder and whelk. A lot of those fish are going to international markets right now.”
Todd Perrin, chef co-owner, Mallard Cottage
“I was raised just outside of St John’s, in Longspond. I graduated from Prince Edward Island’s Culinary Institute of Canada almost 20 years ago, then worked in Stratford, Ontario, then for Canadian Pacific hotels across the country, and in Switzerland, before moving back to Newfoundland, around 2000. I got my first restaurant about 12 years ago, then more recently, Mallard Cottage.
Being in Newfoundland—an island in the middle of the North Atlantic—I think we have to try to use as much of our own local resource as we can get our hands on. One of the fish dishes typically on our menu is pan-seared cod on bean cassoulet, made with white beans, bacon and local greens.
In future, I’d like to see more accessibility to fish we catch on our shores, so we can offer that direct connection to Newfoundland fish and Newfoundland itself.”
Shaun Hussey, executive chef and co-owner, Chinched
“I grew up in Conception Bay South, and got my culinary training on Prince Edward Island, then worked across the US and in St Martin, Dutch West Indies, before taking a job on Fogo Island, back home in Newfoundland. My wife Michelle [Leblanc] and I opened our restaurant Chinched, in St John’s, in 2010.
Being from Newfoundland, I think there’s no reason to go outside our own province for fish, even though our government doesn't make it easy to acquire product. At Chinched, everyone seems to love the potato-wrapped cod: our version of fish and chips. Instead of doing the fish in batter, we wrap it in very thin strings of potato then fry it till it’s crispy.
Hopefully we can change the current legislation around direct sales, and there will be a whole world of new product available for all the restaurants in St John’s. There is a market for this here now—in the last five or six years the scene has changed.”
Andrea Maunder, pastry chef and owner, Bacalao
“I was born and raised in St. John’s, but I’ve lived and worked all over the country—Toronto, Ottawa, Victoria and Vancouver. I grew up on acres of family land where all sorts of wild and cultivated berries, fruit and vegetables grew, so I developed an early understanding of the value of local food and an appreciation of seasonality. I am a sommelier and self-taught pastry chef.
I returned home in 2007 with the plan to open Bacalao, the first restaurant in Newfoundland to elevate traditional Newfoundland cuisine to a fine-dining level, with a hyper-local focus.
At Bacalao, we serve only local seafood, and we focus on what is fresh and in season. One of our signature dishes is a gorgeous riff on a very traditional and rustic dish: salt fish and scruncheons. Bacalao is named for salt fish, and it is our logo. Salt fish is the traditional food of Newfoundland—our history and culture were built on it. At our restaurant we begin with cod from Fogo Island, caught using the sustainable cod pot method. We house-salt it with the skin on. It is olive oil-poached and served with house-cured local pork belly, gnocchi, and a BBQ sauce made using locally roasted coffee. Sensational!”
Jeremy Charles, executive chef co-owner Raymonds and the Merchant Tavern
“I was born in St John’s and grew up in Mount Pearl. I’ve been cooking since I was 20, and I cooked in Montreal and Chicago before I came back home, about nine years ago. I guess the highlights [of my career] have been being able to cook back home in Newfoundland and also showcasing all the wonderful food we have here, across Canada.
When it comes to seafood, at Raymonds and the Merchant Tavern, our philosophy is to choose sustainable wherever possible and to support local fishermen. At Raymonds we do platters where we’re able to showcase some of the beautiful seafood we have—a selection of whelk, shrimp, lobster, snow crab, sea urchin, and scallops all from here.
My hope for the future is that we can find a way to purchase directly from fishermen and go up to the wharf and take whatever seafood we want without having to go through so many different people. That would cut down on wastage and showcase so many products, beyond the cod fish.”
(Photos: Rick O'Brien)