Test kitchen tempts Richmond grocers, restaurants to stock sustainable seafood

In a bright kitchen hidden amongst warehouses on Annacis Island, chef Poyan Danesh adds the finishing garnish to a saffron lobster risotto while keeping an eye on the black tiger shrimp frying on the stove.

The kitchen on an industrial island in the Fraser River isn’t the first place you’d expect to find sumptuous cuisine prepared by the former member of Canada’s Culinary Olympics team.

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Saffron lobster risotto prepared by chef Poyan Danesh. Photo: Richmond News/Megan Devlin

Danesh isn’t preparing food at a restaurant. He’s the culinary director at Frobisher International Enterprise Ltd., a Richmond-based seafood importer. When you buy seafood in Richmond, whether at a restaurant or a grocery store, there’s a fair chance Danesh once prepared the product in this kitchen, convincing restaurant owners, suppliers and grocery stores to stock their shelves with it.

“The test kitchen is customer relationships, if you will,” he said. “To have kind of an open environment of learning between chefs and restaurants to discuss seafood and sustainable seafood anytime you want.”

It’s used to sample the fish, crustaceans and mollusks Frobisher imports and to create new recipes the company can recommend to customers who buy their seafood.

“You get into the cooking world, I guess, to be able to experiment. And it’s always great that they have a positive experience and enjoy the food,” Danesh said.

Frobisher imports these black tiger shrimp from an organic farm in Vietnam. From there, make their way onto grocery store shelves in Richmond and beyond. Photo: Richmond News/Megan Devlin

If you want to try one of Danesh’s recipes, you can pick up many of the seafood ingredients at a Richmond T&T (Frobisher won the grocery chain’s supplier of the year award in 2015) and watch a tutorial on his YouTube channel. 

In the seafood importing world where supply chains usually conjure up images of ships, forklifts and warehouses, the test kitchen is an interesting place where the artistic aspects of cooking can be showcased.

Frobisher was founded by Peter Fu, the son of a fisherman who immigrated to Richmond from China in the 1990s armed with a degree from Zhejiang Ocean University.

He started knocking on restaurant doors, trying to sell shrimp from suppliers he knew back in Asia. That’s how Frobisher was born (and named after the Richmond street Fu lived on).

Fast forward to 2018, and Frobisher is importing seafood from all over the world and selling it throughout Western Canada under several brand names.

They’re committed to offer more sustainable products recommended by organizations like Ocean Wise. People like Fu and Danesh go inside of suppliers’ operations to vet them for ethical practices.

Back at the kitchen, Danesh plates the tiger shrimp, now a pleasant pink, and points to a screen showing photos of his recent trip to remote Vietnam mangroves, where the crustaceans were harvested from an organic farm. 

“When I went to school, seafood and sustainability was last thing on the agenda. It wasn't even on the agenda,” he said.

Now, he’s glad sustainable options have made it on the menu in Richmond and beyond.

Frobisher imports seafood and sells it under several brands. Some of their most well known ones are Ocean Mama and 3Fish. Photo: Richmond News/Megan Devlin

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