Table Talk: Peter McKenna on Seafood
The chef and co-owner of the Gannet talks about his passion for seafood
Growing up, fishing to me was heading out with my older cousin in the hope of catching brown trout. My grandmother always had the task of gutting our catch. Luckily for her we weren’t prolific. It wasn’t until I arrived in London at the grand old age of 20 that I got my hands on a multitude of different sea creatures – urchins, lobsters, hake and the strange-looking but wonderful-tasting St Peter, more commonly known as John Dory.
It was during my time in Sydney, Australia, that I really got to grips with preparing seafood to a high standard. Attention to detail was key. I then scored a job with a Saudi prince and was given the freedom (and funds) to trawl the markets of Mediterranean coastal towns, Caribbean islands and the Middle East. I embraced everything – the sweetest red prawns, savoury vongole, freshest octopus, perfect little red mullet that bouillabaisse dreams are made of, many different types of oyster, gooseneck barnacles that daredevils risk life and limb to gather and last, but certainly not least, tuna.
I had the task of preparing a 150kg tuna off the coast of Malta on the aft deck of a tugboat in the blistering sun, just hours after being caught, something I repeated in the Maldives cooking for a Russian oligarch. The fish used was caught off the back of his 73-metre private yacht – how’s that for sea to plate? At the Gannet we use produce from both land and sea but, if I’m very honest, it’s when I’m opening scallops and filleting the stunningly fresh fish we get our hands on daily that I am most excited.