By: The Fishmonger*
As we enter the New Year ‘The Fishmonger’ is wondering if we are going to see some innovation in promoting seafood and especially getting the consumers more engaged in purchasing more and obtaining more confidence.
As we enter the New Year ‘The Fishmonger’ is wondering if we are going to see some innovation in promoting seafood and especially getting the consumers more engaged in purchasing more and obtaining more confidence. There have been some highly successful promotional programs over the years but, unfortunately, they have been dwarfed by so many failures and inconsistencies.
Doing nothing either individually or collectively is not an answer as now the industry is not only up against other proteins for a share of the plate, but a plethora of man/laboratory made alternatives, some may say, fake foods aka known as plant-based alternatives. Do not ignore this it is happening right around us now!
The Fishmonger has been involved in many such promotional activities and there are three concepts which stand out. One of these is the ‘whole of country’ approach which needs many people in government and industry organizations coming together creating a road map to success.
This can work but it needs a government who wants to engage with industry, many workshops and commitment of all the main players to make it happen. Whilst this is the best approach as it looks at how government policies impact as well as a focus on the full supply chain it is exceedingly difficult so in this article, we will highlight the other opportunities.
The second is getting a group focused on a harvested product. This is generally led by the harvester and involves a specific species and likely a branded product.
“The main beneficiary is the harvester but one of the failures here tends to be that the harvester tends to focus on their own ideas whereas if they expanded the opportunity for their processors, wholesalers, and retailers e.g., the supply chain to their consumers, to engage they would likely create better outcomes and learn so much more about their ‘chain’.”
Thirdly there is the very localized activity that can be created by every retailer. The Fishmonger was part of a team that won awards (state and national) for a program he was involved which engaged the local community, employing and training young local people (mainly young people), educating the consumers and building a friendly hub which enhanced the business and the community.
Many times, however, there is a sense of missed opportunities for seafood promotion and we are going to highlight one of those now.
Note there is still a wonderful opening for organizations to engage in this before this is totally lost so, please give the following a good viewing if you intend to start off the year with some innovative ideas. Have any of you heard of John McFadden?
John started casual work in the hospitality industry as a twelve year old in country New South Wales, Australia and has now been a chef for over 35 years and has an impressive background in Fine Dining, Restaurants, Hotels, Cafes, Catering Companies, First & Business Class Lounges and Schools, etc.
He lists his specialties as people management, kitchen operations, market trends, mobilizations, menu planning, menu development, food cost control, supplier negotiations & relations, communication, profitability, mentoring & leadership.
He has brought all of his skills and unique experiences together to become the World Food Champion -Seafood and yet how many of you are aware? The seafood industry generally would not be cognizant, and thus they are seemingly blind to the opportunities that this could create. This where the seafood industry fails!
Missing this is like missing a penalty in the World Cup… John McFadden qualified with a golden ticket win in a qualifying round of the competition held in Australia.
This secured his place in the World Food Championships (WFC) at Fair Park in Dallas, Texas, USA last November. Overall, there were three hundred teams competing in ten category divisions of which forty were from countries outside USA and McFadden being the only Australian.
“In the competition he got to the top ten cook-off in the Seafood division category after he came in second place in the first round on 11 November, where he competed against thirty other teams.”
McFadden finally secured the title in the top ten cook-off for the WFC over the weekend of 12-13 November 2022. With an impressive score of 99.15 out of 100, he defeated the next closest challenger by over two points and making the win even more impressive was that he was cooking solo in the kitchen.
Competition rules permit teams to compete, meaning all of his top ten competitors were multi-chef teams from around the world and across the United States. Truly an amazing effort!
As you would expect, the battle to become a category champion was an epic showdown of culinary talent and execution from around the globe. Amazingly every single category of the championship which occurred at Fair Park, Dallas, experienced a turnover in leadership as no reigning champion was able to defend his/her 2021 title.
“The score on his first seafood final dish came in at 99.75. In the final (second dish) 40% of the first score was added to 60% of your second score for an overall average total between five judges. McFadden finished on 99.15 for both dishes. Simply awesome!”
John’s first dish was shrimp/prawn & snapper ravioli, pea puree, prawn butter & caviar. He relied on products available in Dallas for his seafood and used Ecuadorian Farmed Shrimp with wild Red Snapper from Gulf of Mexico and wild scallops from New Bedford, Massachusetts.
His second dish was confit salmon, baby beets, pickled cucumber & caspy caviar (caspy caviar is an ingredient required for the final). He used Scottish Farmed Wester Ross Salmon – Wester Ross Salmon is hand raised, fed, and harvested in the oldest Salmon farm in Scotland.
As an aside, the burger category was particularly challenging with five countries represented. Japan finished sixth, Canada claimed fourth, Dubai was third, and France climbed into second. But it was a former World Food Champion, Dave Elliott from Kansas, who shocked the field by claiming the title for USA.
This was Elliott’s second big win at WFC – the first was back in 2013 when Elliott swept the entire competition with his beloved mom’s carrot cake recipe. “It was my first year at the World Food Championships and I really had zero expectations that year,” he is reported as saying.
In this current competition, Elliott and his master crew of die-hard foodies came prepared to do battle against seasoned pros from across the globe. Going in, Elliott thought he might have a slight edge. “I think being a barbecue guy definitely came in THE FISHMONGER handy,” he says.
“If you look at the list of competitors in all of the categories, you will see a lot of people from the barbecue world. We have had to learn to cook so many different things at barbecue contests. Plus, we know how to cook to a clock. You have to know how long it takes to make each element of your dish, whatever it is, and work backward so you know when you need to start this or start that.”
Elliott’s winning burger: “Fresh ground ribeye, chuck, and short-rib patty infused with hickory smoked bacon on a fresh-baked Brioche bun with lemon herb aioli and arugula,” he says. “I topped with gruyere, bourbon bacon jam, and a runny egg and served with fresh-made pickles.”
Elliott celebrated his world burger domination with his teammates. “I couldn’t have done it without them John Magno, executive chef at District Pour House+Kitchen, and Dan McCall, owner of District Pour House+Kitchen, were my sous chefs,” he says. “Jenny Meyer-McCall managed the decorating of the presentation platters. They all did a fabulous job!” Note John McFadden secured his win solo!
It was reported that Mr. McFadden’s win shocked the WFC field, having entered the competition seeded at 107 in the world. In the seafood category, he defeated American Carol Koty, (currently working as Food & Beverage Director at Pomperaug Woods, Southbury, Connecticut, USA) who was number one seed for the entire tournament.
It is unlikely he will be under-estimated again, with Mr. McFadden saying consistency is his hallmark feature and key to his success. “Most teams had two or three chefs in the kitchen. They could not believe I was doing it on my own and how precise I was in the kitchen. They called me ‘a machine’,” said Mr. McFadden after his win.
Having won the seafood world title, Mr. McFadden goes through to the Final Table event to be held in Bentonville, Arkansas, USA from 18th to 21st May 2023. The WFC have branded this deciding challenge ‘The Ultimate Food Fight,’ where all category winners cook-off against each other for the position of top chef in the WFC.
The ten champions (Bacon – Jodi Taffel from Altadena, California; BBQ – Sterling Smith from Scottsdale, Arizona; Burger – Dave Elliott from Olathe, Kansas; Dessert – Bethany Boedicker from Galveston, Texas; Steak – Peter Armendariz from Rowena, Texas; Rice / Noodle – Dan Reighn from San Jose, California; Soup – Rocky Julianelle from East Haven, Connecticut; Sandwich – Damon Holter from Hudson, Wisconsin; Vegetarian – Casey Jones from Jacksonville, Florida and Seafood – John McFadden from Sydney, NSW, Australia) will have to navigate three more cooking challenges before claiming the event’s $100,000 grand prize.
Getting to this point has seen the competition participation go from over 80,000 people/entrants to ten. Kudos to all those that have reached the Final Table event and especially to the ‘Mighty McFadden Machine’, who has got there solo pushing out the seafood barrow.
So where is the seafood industry here? Have they been supporting and promoting John along his incredible journey? Has the seafood industry even recognized that this is a wonderful promotional opportunity staring them in the face and utilizing John as an ambassador in some way?
‘There is none so blind as those who do not want to see’ is a proverb that comes to mind so The Fishmonger hopes you read this, understand the opportunity, and start scrambling to see how you can engage with John McFadden and people like him. Have a happy healthy and safe 2023!
References and sources consulted by the author on the elaboration of this article are available under previous request to our editorial staff.