Chef Steve Roberts’ Catch of the Day class at the Auckland Seafood School includes an informative show and tell at the fish market followed by a recipe demonstration and cooking session.

By Sai Raje

The Auckland Seafood School, offering classes to 9000 people every year now, has come a long way since it started 11 years ago. Auckland Fish Market and Auckland Seafood School manager Jo Cooper says the school offers an entertaining environment in which to talk to people about the sustainability, top quality and sheer variety of New Zealand seafood.

“The focus is always on that. The school is designed to complement the fish market, offer a variety of new tastes and drive home the sustainability message.”

Chefs conducting the classes attend special sessions with Sanford’s liaison officers and a member or two of the company’s executive team so they know the answers to questions they are asked about seafood sustainability.

“It helps that the chefs are passionate about cooking seafood and take great initiative in answering people’s sustainability concerns.”

The school has 12 to 15 public classes and 12 to 15 corporate team training events each month. Cooper says the classes itself offer an eclectic range of seafood cooking experiences that change monthly, adapting to latest food trends or increased demand for a particular class.

There are practical, skills-focused sessions about filleting, smoking and barbecuing seafood, as well as cuisine focused sessions that introduce students to cooking Moroccan or Mediterranean inspired seafood.

“In January, our Catch of the Day classes have been full with tourists who want a taste of New Zealand.

“The local palate prefers sessions about matching flavours, Asian and Vietnamese cooking, and barbecue over the summer.”

The corporate classes are especially interesting for both the school and the participants as they draw many people who would otherwise not have voluntarily signed up for a seafood cooking class.

“Helps us educate and excite them about seafood. “They start by saying they don’t eat seafood or ‘oh, I might just try it perhaps’ but then end up enjoying what they have tasted,” says Cooper.

Participants signing up for the public classes love learning about newer fish varieties, how to cook them and of course, eating their creations.

Penny Corbett and Rosalyn Thompson, who attended the Catch of the Day class with chef Steve Roberts, enjoyed learning about fish varieties they were unfamiliar with.  

“We have never been to the seafood school, there’s a lot of fish [at the market] we haven’t seen before,” Corbett says.

“Rosalyn here worked in a fish store for years but had never tried gemfish!

“It’s definitely a great way to learn more about fish and try out new recipes.”

 Photo: Sai Raje.