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Jim Cowie, Chef and Restaurateur, Scotland

Jim Cowie, Chef and Restaurateur, Scotland

Jim Cowie
Chef and Restaurateur

Every morning I walk down to Scrabster market or visit the fishing boats, to select the best quality seafood to serve that day. If anybody works in my restaurant, the first thing they’re told is: to respect our customers you must first respect food. It must be fresh, local and in season.

My father was a fisherman, so was my grandfather, a way of life that has almost gone. Methods have changed and fisheries have changed, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for fish stocks. We already have the technology and scientific evidence on stocks, but let’s act! We need to let immature fish escape and improve selective fishing.

How often do we hear about sustainability and conservation? But the way I see it you couldn’t put a piece of paper between them and seasonality. They’re all linked together.
If you eat with the seasons then fish stocks will be healthier. It’s not a coincidence that mackerel, herring, and shellfish are landed throughout summer and combine well with light salads, or that ‘heavier’ catches are better served with winter and root vegetables. I’ve printed this on my menus: “There’s a fish for every dish, and a dish for every season”. Listen to what your body is asking for. Listen and it will tell you what it needs, exactly when you need it.

I’m trying to make a difference. I’m going into schools, which is where we have to take the message. I’m so impressed with the way that kids respond... they’re much more aware than we give them credit for. What I’m trying to get across is that eating is all about fun, enjoyment and socialising. It’s not just a fuel stop. That’s not what food is about. It’s not just about excellent cooking either, it’s about caring and respect… as one of my friends would say ‘love it up a bit’.

It’s also about being honest with yourself and your customers. Recently I was asked for crab, and we told the customers that there wasn’t any because the weather was bad and the fishing boats couldn’t go out. These customers said that it was the best answer they’re had in any restaurant ever.

I’ve got something to contribute as far as my knowledge of fishing over the years. It's time to pass it on.