MARIE- CLAIRE DIGBY
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