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This page: thinking of fish like a cut of meat revolutionized Josh Niland’s perception. Opposite page: Interior of Niland’s Sydney restaurant St Peter


Real meaningful change It was a casual conversation, buried for years after, but it always stuck with Niland and planted a seed that started to take shape years later in his career when Niland made it the essence of his book and started to pioneer the concept of fish butchery. “Why can’t we see fish as meat, why


can’t we take reference and inspiration from the meat world to affect change to the way we handle fish?” he asks. He is looking for meaningful systemic change. “Right now, when we think of fishmongering, we think of the dealing and trading in a commodity and if we continue to think of it like that then we’ll continue to see the damage that has been done for a very long time.” He wants fishmongers to act more like butchers, demystifying what they are selling for consumers. “Customers who go to a fishmonger should ask the monger ‘what is good today’, they are the ones who have been up early to find the very best fish to put in the shop,” he says. “Fishmongers need to accept they need to be butchers; they need to have that conversation.” The only way to affect real meaningful


change, he says is to change our perception of fish – stop the fish getting caught as a commodity and start seeing it as a luxury item that fetches high prices. “Ultimately we need to start paying


for something that won’t be there forever,” he says. “ It is true to say that there is a growing awareness of the plight of the ocean and the need to be more sustainable. However, documentaries such as this year’s Netflix release Seaspiracy have got it wrong, he says. “The solution is not to stop eating fish, the solution is to be more responsible for what you purchase and as a chef once something comes out of the ground or the water and when an animal gets killed it is your responsibility to use it all.” Besides, as he points out, over a billion people rely on fish as their main


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source of protein and small fishing towns and communities around the world deal with their fish responsibly – they catch their own fish and consume every single part of it. “Whereas in Australia, the UK and the US we can decide what goes on our dinner table and we decide that we only want 40% of the fish, but by doing that you are putting so much pressure on stock,” he says. “This is not saying everybody needs to eat eyeballs and sperm and livers, it is just about not having this privileged opinion that we only want to eat the center of the fish.” His follow-up book Take One Fish, published this summer, is an attempt to offer tangible solutions to the secondaries of fish “that aren’t necessarily the icky bits or the offal of fish”. The idea is simple – take one fish because we don’t need to take two. “If we can generate 90% from one fish, why do we need to take two times 45%?” he asks. “One single fish offers so much opportunity; if we only consider a one- dimensional way then we’ll only achieve a one-dimensional outcome.” Ideas in the book include turning “the gnarly bits of” tuna into mince and using it in lasagne or mapu tofu or kofta. “There


is such a spectrum of work that can be achieved with the less celebrated parts of the fish,” he says.


Creating an eco system After he’d completed the first 18-month stint at Fish Face, he got married and went travelling on a working honeymoon with his wife, fellow chef Julie. Along the way he worked in the Fat Duck in the UK and visited France and Spain. The natural next step for him was to open his own restaurant. “I felt I had gained the practical acumen on how to be a good chef and I had picked up some business knowledge, but until you throw your own money on the table it doesn’t really mean much,” he says. “We just thought, ‘let’s give it a crack’.” Niland opened Saint Peter, a 34-seat fish restaurant with Julie in September 2016. They found instant success, picked up awards along the way and when, 18 months later, they still found themselves with lines out the door it was time to expand. “You may then decide to open a second restaurant, but I thought it would be better to open a retail business that could give Saint Peter a greater storage facility and greater development and


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