Sustainable Cooking class with Andrew Kojima

Every year in my work place I am fortunate to be able to run a dress down and raffle in support of Marine Conservation Society. This usually happens in June, to coincide with World Oceans Day, a global event to raise awareness of how important and amazing our oceans are.

In the last couple of years we have also been organising an evening event for a small number of colleagues not only to improve ‘networking’ across business units (it’s a fairly large company!) but also to raise awareness of sustainability issues when buying or ordering fish from restaurants. Last year we had Raymond Blanc himself opening the dinner. How could we top it this year? With a hands-on, adrenaline fueled team challenge, that’s how! I discussed with chef Koj the possibility – having enjoyed cooking with him a few months ago, I thought he would be perfect for such a challenge.

Koj – photo MCS

I located Central St Cookery School, a fantastic venue not far from the office, and a charity too which means the money the company paid to hire went to a great cause. With Koj, we started planning the menu, making sure the recipes and dishes he’d come up with would only consider fish or shellfish that is rated 3 or less on the MCS Good FIsh Guide – anything 4 or 5 would be a red, no no. Koj suggested scallops, of course hand dived, and hake. We bought the fish from Southbank Fresh Fish so that we’d be assured of their source and fishing methods. 

The scallops were so fresh, and hand dived in the Isle of Mull, the hake was also beautifully fresh. The full menu was Scallop sashimi with ponzu dressing, Panko crusted hake with pepper and squid ink, Macerated strawberries with black pepper honeycomb and creme fraiche. Delicious and quite challenging!

We did not have much time to play with so we had to pack everything very tightly. After Koj’s demo – which lasted just under an hour, during which he showed the key points of each dish rather than the whole process – we randomly divided the 30 guests into three teams, each tackling one dish. They had 30 minutes to prep, and to help, each team elected a ‘head chef’ to coordinate everyone else. After the first 30 minutes were up the groups making the main and the dessert were ushered out of the kitchen and into the dining room while the starter group had an extra 10 minutes to plate up the individual 30 + 6 dishes (the judges!).

plating up the Hake – photo MCS

After eating the starter, the main team went back in for their 10 mins of prep and so forth. The evening was great fun but not only that – having Sam from the MCS Fisheries’ team with us on the evening was very useful as he provided loads of tips on what fish to choose, why and what questions to ask when dining out or buying fish. Koj was once again a great guy to work with, just a shame I didn’t do any cooking this time!

Amazingly each group managed to produce beautiful looking dishes in their allocated time slots, without delays! Koj’s tuition went to great effect as each team did a fantastic job on presentation too – one of the three points they would be scored (as well as taste and timing). Koj, myself and two colleagues organising the event with me and Caroline Bennett owner of Moshi Moshi and author of Sushi 500 were the ‘judges’. The team who made the main were the winners – their dish was stunning and so gorgeous on the plate with the black of the squid ink and the vivid red of the roasted peppers. 
Here’s to another World Oceans Day! 

An article by Koj on the event is here.

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