Charles Clover

Fins ain’t what they used to be

Charles Clover says that there’s only one way to beat the celebrity chefs who are wiping out every endangered fish in the sea: take a trip to McDonald’s

Charles Clover says that there’s only one way to beat the celebrity chefs who are wiping out every endangered fish in the sea: take a trip to McDonald’s

In a single human lifetime we have inflicted a crisis on the oceans, comparable to what Stone Age man did to the mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger, what 19th-century Americans did to the bison and the passenger pigeon, what 20th-century British and Norwegians did to the great whales, and what people in this century are doing to rainforests and bushmeat. This crisis is caused by overfishing. Given that the destruction of once renewable sources of food is a serious problem for the human race, you would imagine it might have troubled the opinion-formers in the culinary establishment. But some of them still aren’t making the connections. In the world’s celebrity restaurants, the marine equivalent of the panda, the rhino and the dodo are on the menu.

Gordon Ramsay is Britain’s top chef, his website tells us. Whether or not you accept him at his own assessment, which is engagingly devoid of false modesty, you have to accept him as something very like it. For Ramsay is very good indeed. And an area of territory he has marked out for himself is the cooking of fish, not least by posing naked on the front of the Sunday Times Style section with only a halibut — listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as an endangered species — to preserve his modesty.

Trained in France, Ramsay cooks with the very best ingredients, creating dishes that make reviewers go weak at the knees. He is the only British chef with three Michelin stars, for his Chelsea restaurant, and his protégés cook at Claridge’s, the Savoy Grill and the Connaught. Ramsay has written one of the seminal works of the Omega-3 generation — as our vain era, with its health-, diet- and fashion-fuelled obsession with fish and its beneficial oils may yet come to be known — in his book Passion for Seafood, co-written with Roz Denny.

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