MARIE- CLAIRE DIGBY

The Irish Times Magazine - - FOOD- FILE -

A free fish­ing trip and feast for kids – what’s the catch? “We’re mad about get­ting more kids eat­ing seafood and Ir­ish pro­duce.” Gareth “Gaz” Smith, chef owner of neigh­bour­hood res­tau­rant Michael’s in Mount Mer­rion, is putting his time and his money where his sound­bites are. That means giv­ing up his Sun­days to get young­sters out fish­ing, learn­ing about sea­sonal Ir­ish pro­duce, and cook­ing and eat­ing it too.

On April 22nd, he is tri­alling the first of a se­ries of hands- on days out with chil­dren between the ages of 10 and 14 years that will see them go fish­ing on a boat out of Howth, meet­ing spe­cial­ist veg grow­ers Maria Flynn ( Bal­ly­makenny Farm) and Marita Col­lier ( Drum­mond House Farm) and be­ing in­tro­duced to the de­li­cious things they grow.

Par­tic­i­pants will then head to Mount Mer­rion be shown how to pre­pare the seafood and veg, and then eat it, at Michael’s. There will be no charge for this out­ing, or for the cook­ery class. The pi­lot day, June 22nd, is al­ready booked out, but you can regis­ter in­ter­est for the same pro­gramme on May 20th, June 24th and July 15th by email­ing info@ michaels. ie. Places will be lim­ited, so early ap­pli­ca­tion is ad­vised.

“I think we’ll get a lot of good­will from do­ing it, and the more fo­cus on fish, the bet­ter for all of us seafood joints. Ev­ery­body said we were crazy to do free seafood Septem­ber, when we didn’t charge for chil­dren’s por­tions, but peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ated it and have sup­ported us since,” Smith says.

“The only thing that might change is the ac­tual fish­ing part – any sign of trou­bled seas and we won’t go out, we’ll buy from the fish­er­men in­stead.”

As for his rea­sons for be­ing so de­ter­mined to get chil­dren eat­ing more ad­ven­tur­ously, Smith says: “I grew up in a mas­sive coun­cil es­tate in the UK, I didn’t eat any­thing ex­otic like pasta till I was 17, let alone fish or veg. It was tur­key twiz­zlers and waf­fles with beans, so it’s close to my heart.”

Gareth ‘ Gaz’ Smith, sec­ond from left, chef owner at Michael’s of Mount Mer­rion, with man­ager Talha Pasha and fish­er­men Steven Farren and Robert Markey on board Celtic Spirit II, off Howth, Co Dublin. PHO­TO­GRAPH: DARA MAC DÓNAILL

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