Making lemonade out of…. carp?

A group of chefs, businessmen, and civil servants in Louisiana have devised a clever plan for dealing with an invasive fish: Rename it and stick it on retail shelves and restaurant menus.

Asian carp was brought to the U.S. from east Asia in the 1970s to be used to help manage ponds and lagoons. As anyone who has ever seen a Hollywood movie could have predicted, some of the fish escaped into the wild, multiplied, and have wreaked havoc on U.S. waterways. Northern states have tried poisoning them, but Louisiana is taking a more innovative and sustainable approach: finding ways to make carp part of the local culinary culture.

Now being labeled as “silverfin,” the fish tastes like a cross between scallops and crab-meat. Local chefs say the fish is delicious, and are leading efforts to make wider use of it:

Chef Philippe Parola of Baton Rouge, CEO of Chef Parola Enterprises and Partran, kick-started the campaign in the fall, and it’s finally coming together in the New Year.

 

“We have the whole game plan ready to go,” Parola said.

Parola, along with Chef Cullen Lord of Fleming’s Restaurant and Darryl Rivere of A la Carte Food, stepped in with recipes like silverfin cakes and silverfin almondine.

Rivere Foods of Paincortville has also signed on as the lead processor, New Orleans Fish House will be distributing the frozen products, and Rouses Supermarket is the first official buyer.

Parola will be attending the National Grocers Association Convention in Las Vegas to pitch the fish to its 1,500 members.

This is great news. The Asian carp competes with other fish for food and poses a significant risk to humans: The fish can grow to giant proportions (see above), and has been known to jump out of the water, injuring boaters and damaging their vessels.  Additionally, it’s almost impossible to get rid of.

“If we can’t do something with silverfin, we are clowns. It’s too good to ship to Asia, it’s too good to use as bait, and it’s too good to leave on the bank,” [Parola] said.

This looks to me like a great model for problem-solving: government, the market, and local chefs working together to create a win-win for everyone in a way that benefits the public. I like it. 

 

Zoe Romanowsky

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Zoe Romanowsky is writer, consultant, and coach. Her articles have appeared in "Catholic Digest," "Faith & Family," "National Catholic Register," "Our Sunday Visitor," "Urbanite," "Baltimore Eats," and Godspy.com. Zo

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