Perfect seafood secrets revealed

A new FRDC website aims to provide the answers seafood consumers have been craving for more than a decade, namely how to choose, buy, handle and prepare seafood

By Peter Horvat and Ilaria Catizone

The digital age is offering new opportunities to share the wealth of knowledge about the best ways to handle, prepare and serve seafood to create a memorable eating experience.

Video interviews with chefs, links to the latest science and fish stocks information, recipes, and how-to guides on storage, selection and preparation are all part of the FRDC’s online Fishfiles mix, launched in May.

The FRDC’s investment in research, development and extension (RD&E) during the past 20 years has included several projects focused on improving consumer understanding of seafood and providing wholesalers and retailers with advice to share with customers.

The most notable of these projects is the Australian Seafood Users Manual, conceived to address the concerns raised by consumers – both professional chefs and home cooks.

Originally published in 2000, its guidelines provide the foundation for Fishfiles. Other existing documents being integrated into the mix include the Seafood Quality Index, developed by Sydney Fish Market, and the Seafood of Eyre Peninsula developed by Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula Inc. with the local Eyre Peninsula fishing industry.

A consumer web project

The Fishfiles website and information portal has been driven by the recognition that many Australian seafood consumers are not comfortable with and do not understand seafood. This is despite market research showing that more than 90 per cent of Australians consume seafood at some point each year.

The research shows consumption can vary from several times a week, for a seafood fan, to those who only buy seafood for a special occasion. This has provided the FRDC with  a very clear idea of what was needed for the development of Fishfiles.

Fishfiles has three primary web platforms:

  • the Fishfiles website, which provides factually based research information;
  • the Fishfiles Facebook page, which will act as the conduit to information and start a dialogue with consumers; and
  • the Fishfiles YouTube channel, which will host new and creative video content that gives a fuller, personal insight into seafood.

Fishfiles website

A major component of the information provided on the website is based on the Australian Seafood Users Manual. It provides a logical and easy-to-use format that explains handling and preparing seafood. In addition to the manual, recipes, videos and research on storage, quality, cooking and safety have been added.

The ultimate goal is to have a content mix that educates and is engaging, fun and quirky. Content will be roughly divided into one-third better handling, storage and cooking, one-third on the science of sustainability, and one-third from partner organisations (Sydney Fish Market, the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre, universities, chefs and fishers).

Fishfiles Facebook page

The Fishfiles Facebook page is designed to be the link between the FRDC’s three websites (www.frdc.com.au, www.fish.gov.au and www.fishfiles.com.au), as well as linking to the FRDC’s partners and the broader community. The Fishfiles Facebook page will also broaden the reach of the FRDC to the community and provide a way to share the information that underpins the fishing industry.

Facebook provides the FRDC with a way to start a dialogue with the community, responding to questions about the information being put forward.

Fishfiles YouTube channel

Video is an important component of the Fishfiles website. It will be integrated into the website, but hosted on its own Fishfiles YouTube channel.

The video content will provide behind-the-scenes insight into what fishers, retailers, scientists and chefs think and know about seafood. The stakeholders taking part are experts in their chosen fields and will provide the viewer with confidence in the message being delivered.

Ultimately, the website will help consumers to get more from the seafood they buy through improved handling, reduced waste and a better end product: a tasty seafood meal.

Each segment will be compiled into one of three formats  designed to give information in a different way – ‘All Access’, ‘60 Seconds With …’ and ‘How To?’. They will be filmed in a style that gives the viewer confidence that the FRDC’s Fishfiles is a legitimate and reliable source of information.

Fishfiles was officially launched and showcased at the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival, which ran from 16 to 19 May. 


Accessing all areas

Mussels, clams, garlic and ... ? What is the secret ingredient used to turn these items into the most delicious pasta sauce? Find out in the new Fishfiles ‘All Access’ videos.

The new videos take the viewer behind the scenes, hearing from some of Australia’s most celebrated chefs and seafood producers and allowing them to share their personal perspectives on seafood.
FRDC’s digital media manager Rachelle Etienne-Breidenbach says some of Australia’s leading chefs have already been interviewed for the ‘All Access’ videos. “Our goal now is to produce more stories from a broad range of chefs and fishers.”

She says their stories and insight will inspire people to use more seafood and prepare it like a professional chef. Or perhaps, just like mum does; several chefs have let slip that they still get cooking lessons from their mothers.

Head chef at Casa Barilla in Sydney Luca Ciano says: “Fall in love with the product. Buy it whole, learn to fillet it and use the rest of it for stock. It sounds hard, but really it is not.”

He shares his top seafood choices, which include seafood many Australians may not know well, such as eel. A traditional ingredient in northern Italy, where he was born and raised, in Australia it is often used only in sushi dishes. “You can do so much more with it,” Luca Ciano says. Versatility is one of the features he prizes in seafood, also recommending prawns and snapper for the same reason.

Mark Jensen from Red Lantern, also in Sydney, loves the humble Ocean Jacket, and shares his first seafood memories of fishing with his dad. Mark believes the variety of seafood on the market today is making chefs and consumers more adventurous.

“Twenty years ago customers just wanted a plain white fillet. The rise in popularity of many cuisines – Asian, Mexican and Mediterranean to name a few – has seen chefs looking for the new or unknown. Restaurants are serving molluscs, crustaceans and many different species of fish, and people are appreciating them more,” Mark Jensen says.

Rachelle Etienne-Breidenbach says the chefs and fishers provide the inspiration and the Fishfiles website provides tips and easy-to-follow guides. Although Fishfiles is now live and contains a lot of information, it will never be ‘finished’. The FRDC wants feedback from users so that it can continue to source content that meets consumers’ needs.

Much of this content will come from industry partners, Rachelle Etienne-Breidenbach says. “Technology and social media allows us to connect with others like never before. There are many seafood companies and producers out there that we would like to work with. For example, the Sydney Fish Market is an Australian seafood icon. If someone has a question and they have the answer, Fishfiles will point the way.”

Similarly, if people are after information on the status of a fish stock, Fishfiles will point them to www.fish.gov.au, she says, which provides information on the government stock status reviews for 49 key Australian culinary seafood species.

Pete Evans from the TV series My Kitchen Rules has similar advice for consumers: “If you are at the supermarket and don’t know which fish to buy … just pick one and check the internet, or visit www.fishfiles.com.au, for suggestions on how to prepare it.”

While the FRDC has a statutory obligation to ensure knowledge generated from the work it funds is publicly available, Rachelle Etienne-Breidenbach says Fishfiles aims to do this in the most easily accessed and targeted way for seafood consumers.


More information

Peter Horvat, 02 6285 0414

Fishfiles