News and blog

Katie Roche

MSC's UK PR Consultant

Andrei Lussmann: Sustainable seafood should be for everyone

November 30, 2018

Award-winning restaurateur, Andrei Lussmann, on why he stands for sustainability and what the future looks like for sustainable seafood. 

Andrei Lussmann wasn’t always a keen fish eater, but now he clearly adores it, making his career out of bringing sustainable seafood to the high street, while introducing tasty dishes with seafood that are sometimes off-radar, such as cod cheeks and sprats.  

It’s his long-standing commitment to serving certified sustainable seafood that got him the big winning title of Source Fish Responsibly at the Food Made Good Awards, which is hosted by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. In fact, 90% of his seafood dishes carry the MSC blue fish label.  

“Our aim is to bring sustainability to the high street. Sustainability is a key driver for making decisions within the business. The supply of good produce is fundamental. Knowing the product integrity, provenance and market value, and having a consistent supply,” says Lussmann. 

Andrei LussmannLussmann has worked in the hospitality sector for 28 years, he spent time with Pizza Express, managing their flagship restaurants, and developed his portfolio with Fish Diner, and then Corney & Barrow where he says he developed a good understanding, and thirst, for wine. In 2002, he set up Lussmanns with the view that you can enjoy good and ethically sourced food. His goal was, and still is, to make sustainable dining accessible to all. 

From an early age, Andrei was taught to understand why integrity and provenance of meat and fish mattered. Growing up in West Africa, he learned that food and where it came from was important. Today, he feels there is a lot of greenwashing and that it’s important for restaurants to do the right thing. 

“Fish is such a beautiful thing to play with. We need to be a bit bolder with how we cook the fish in Britain, how we prepare and serve it,” he says, “We change 30% of the dishes on our menu every quarter. Those changes reflect more about how we dress and serve the fish, rather than introducing new fish.” 

Politics of choice

Choosing fish for a menu isn’t a straightforward task. Lussmann tried many fishmongers and grew tired of 3am trips to Billingsgate and Smithfield markets. There is also the politics of choice (as with any type of food): what should a restaurant choose, local or sustainable? Can we try to do both? 

“With so much hubbub and arguments over what is landed sustainably, it became clear that we needed a pragmatic and proactive approach. A no-nonsense perspective that is clearly labelled, without fear or favour, and provided clarity in what was sustainable to fish. Hence, our relationship with the MSC was born,” explains Lussmann. 

Lussmann sources lots of interesting species: coley, plaice, mackerel, cod cheeks, and hake, plus much more. If it’s MSC certified, it will go on his menu!  

“It is better that it’s certified sustainable from another country than from a local boat that sounds nice. The bottom line is, if it can’t be verified sustainable, we are actually potentially adding more problems to what is a very complex situation already. There is no argument if we want fish in the sea in 50 years’ time.”

Andrei is referring to British seafood that isn’t certified sustainable. There is fish landed everyday by boats that he believes could be catching endangered species. Not many know or have enough data on stock levels, how it’s caught, and habitat impact from fishing methods.  

“Today we are time-poor and often overwhelmed by the volume of greenwash that shouts out at consumers. MSC is the only international kitemark that we can trust on as being a steady and fair, and most importantly, scientific, and decent platform to work with. It makes sense for all fish restaurants to support it.” 

The MSC blue fish label gives independent reassurance that the fish has come from a sustainable source and will help protect our oceans for years to come. 

Cornish hake: local and sustainable

Cornish hake, certified since 2015, is enjoying renewed popularity in the UK. Previously sent overseas (it’s a national obsession in Spain), the UK market for hake is expanding. With a white tasty flesh and flaky texture, hake makes a great alternative to cod and can increasingly be found on UK restaurant menus. 

Although stable now, the stocks of hake were depleted in the 1990s. However, thanks to careful management and sacrifices made by fishermen and the industry, stocks have now recovered to nearly double their low point. 

“Sustainability is removed from the reality of how we eat. And the whole issue of food security is a massive problem that people don’t understand,” explains Lussmann. 

The reliance on importing seafood from the developing world has led to a strain on resources there, where 73% of seafood is now caught. In 2018, MSC launched a new initiative called Pathway to Sustainability to support fisheries globally that have barriers to becoming sustainable. 

As a charity, MSC joins efforts with hundreds of others working to end overfishing, restore fish stocks, protect ecosystems and eliminate illegal fishing. 

“You really are voting with your fork when eating seafood,” says Lussmann. “MSC is one of the few examples that supermarkets have collectively supported, and there is no negotiation here. It is a scientific-driven kitemark that protects livelihoods and fish for future generations. If it’s not MSC, it’s not worth having on the menu.” 

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