Jean-Christophe Novelli pots a fishy book in the sea off Workington
Luckily for us, the kind crew speedily nipped back to shore and we were soon nestled in our lifejackets and on our way to witness Jean-Christophe fishing for lobsters and crabs in the sea off Workington.
The French chef was joined by Gerard Richardson, one of the organisers of the Whitehaven Festival, as part of a promotional tour for their new joint cookery book A Mad Frog And An Englishman Go Fishing.
The pair, who know each other through Jean-Christophe’s appearances at the Whitehaven festival, went out with Workington’s Richard Matear on his fishing boat to bring up lobster pots.
They were accompanied on the trip by the RNLI crew, members of the ladies committee and representatives from the charity Fishermen’s Mission.
With sunlight sparkling on the turquoise sea around them, Richard sifted through the pots to pick out the biggest, tastiest looking specimens, discarding anything small and under developed.
Jean-Christophe asked: “What is the perfect lobster?” as he watched the fisherman at work.
“This one here is about three years old,” Richard said as Jean-Christophe held a grey-blue lobster to the light. “You can see he’s much bigger, the right size, while the others are too small.”
With a successful catch of five lobsters in the crate and one hefty crab, other molluscs and starfish were then tipped back into the water to live another day.
As the pair joined us back on the lifeboat to head back to shore, Michelin-starred chef Jean-Christophe explained the passion behind the new book.
It is a collaboration of his recipes for light and hearty seafood dishes and Gerard’s recommendations on wine.
He said: “Writing the book has helped me to understand more about fish and about cooking fish.
“The recipes are very simple that people can do everyday.
“For all of my 35 years as a chef I have been cooking dishes to Michelin star standard, but it is important to come back to this simplicity and to understand the origins of dishes.
“I don’t fish myself but today has been very humbling to speak with the fisherman and see that process.
“We hope the book will help to highlight the great fish that Cumbria has and we hope it will promote the local fishing industry here. We also hope it will attract more tourists.”
Whitehaven wine merchant Gerard said: “When Jean-Christophe phoned to ask me if I wanted to work with him on this book you could have knocked me over with a feather. To work on something like this with a world class chef is unbelievable.”
As part of their tour they also visited the fishing co-operative in Maryport, shrimp catchers in Silloth, haaf net fishermen in Allonby and pupils at St Patrick’s Primary School in Cleator Moor.
The book will be launched at the Whitehaven Festival in June.