We’ve all heard it before. Plenty of folks—even some of the savviest Alabama Gulf Seafood connoisseurs—will tell you that there are certain fish you just can’t eat.
Even Chef Chris Sherrill of the Flora-Bama Yacht Club used to feel that way.
“I’ve previously been quoted as saying there was absolutely nothing I could do to make Jack Crevalle taste good,” said Sherrill. “I was challenged to try it again and literally had to eat my own words once I figured out how to treat it. I was surprised at how good it is.”
Jack Crevalle is just one Gulf fish species being touted by the NUISANCE Group, an organization formed in 2015 by Sherrill and Chandra Wright, nature tourism specialist with Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism.
The NUISANCE Group—focusing on species of flora and fauna considered to be a Nuisance, Underutilized, or Invasive, but Sustainable and Available, through Noble Culinary Endeavors—has been working hard these past two years to change the minds of foodies and casual seafood fans alike.
Among other plants and animals, the NUISANCE Group roster includes Gulf species like Bonita, Pigfish, Pinfish, Oyster Drills, Hog Snapper, Tiger Shrimp, Porgy, Butterfish, Silk Snapper, Gafftopsail Catfish, Queen Snapper, Silk Snapper, and the fish that inspired the idea for the group: Lionfish.
Additionally, the NUISANCE Group mission has expanded to educate the public on food waste in America, considering that as much as 40% of the food grown, transported, and processed in the U.S. is never consumed.
You’ll find much of their endeavors over on their Facebook page, including videos, recipes, and articles. But the best way to spread the word is a simple one—through the food itself, of course.
The NUISANCE Group has been hosting a variety of events to highlight unusual products and cooking techniques. Most recently, Chef Brody Olive (who is on the group’s board of directors) teamed up with Chef Sherrill for the group’s third NUISANCE-themed wine dinner at Voyagers Restaurant, where Chef Olive is the executive chef.
“Some of the guests initially expressed skepticism about the unusual menu items,” said Wright. “But the overall consensus at the end of the evening was that although they would never have ordered the items before, they were pleasantly surprised with how good everything tasted.”
Forward-thinking chefs like Sherrill and Olive are among a handful in Alabama, Florida, and elsewhere that have included these “trash fish” on their regular menus—when they’re available, that is.
Supply of these species is still the biggest challenge for the NUISANCE Group, both in restaurants and markets. Even the Lionfish, one of the more well-known species featured on NUISANCE menus, is hard to come by.
“The only efficient means of harvesting Lionfish is currently by spearfishing,” said Wright. “So there are limited numbers of divers targeting Lionfish, and even fewer are pursuing the commercial licenses needed to get their Lionfish in the hands of suppliers and restaurants.”
For folks along the Gulf Coast, the NUISANCE Group already has a few events planned for the spring and summer:
- NUISANCE Pop-Up Dinner | May 11 | Big Beach Brewing Company
The next NUISANCE-themed pop-up dinner will take place at Big Beach Brewing Company in Gulf Shores. Full details will be up soon on their Facebook page.
- Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo | June 2-4 | The Flora-Bama
The NUISANCE Group will once again have a presence at the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo, a family-friendly fishing event that’ll feature a “Trash Can Slam” division for both kids and adults. Some of the catches will be used later on in the culinary competition.
- REEF Lionfish Cook-Off | July 9 & August 13 | Sarasota & Juno Beach
The NUISANCE Group will be teaming up with REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) for a pair of Lionfish Cook-Off events in Satasota, FL and Juno Beach, FL.
- Alabama Lionfish Awareness Day | Fall 2017 | TBD
After a successful debut in 2016, the NUISANCE Group will be hosting their second annual Lionfish Awareness Day event, “Lions On The Line,” in the fall. More details soon to come.
If you’re not on or near the Gulf Coast, you can still support the NUISANCE Group from afar.
Along with following their channels on social media (as well as Chef Chris Sherrill on Facebook), you can donate through the “donate” button on their Facebook page or by shopping through Amazon Smile and selecting the NUISANCE Group as your preferred charity.
And for cooking “trash fish” in your own home, Wright and Sherrill are working on a NUISANCE Group cookbook for the near future.
Organizations like this are important to maintain the ecosystems of our Gulf Coast and to support Alabama’s seafood industry. Keep an eye out for more events and info coming soon!